Monday, May 4, 2009

In the backyard... Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer's BlackbirdBrewer's Blackbird, Dawson Creek Park, Hillsboro, Oregon on 6 December 2008 by Greg Gillson.


Brewer's Blackbirds are found on residential lawns and urban parking lots, as well as agricultural areas, sage steppe, coastal areas, and generally open areas below 6,000 feet of elevation throughout the Pacific Northwest. In recent years they have expanded their range in the West to southern Alaska and eastward to the western Great Lakes region.

These birds eat a larger percentage of insects than many other blackbirds. They have adapted to picking insects of the grills of cars in parking lots, not to mention scrounging spilled french fries from the ground at fast food restaurants. They also visit backyard feeders for seeds and food scraps, but are more likely to be seen perched on wires or walking the lawns.

The male is glossy black with greenish body plumage and purplish head sheen in strong sunlight. The pale yellow eye is quite distinctive. Females are duller brownish with dark eyes. Similar species in the Pacific NW include the short-tailed European Starling, the male Red-winged Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbirds.

After breeding, the birds form large flocks in the fall, mixed with other blackbirds and starlings. Birds leave the northern parts of their range in winter and move down slope from the higher elevations, departing any area with deep or constant snow cover. Still, some of these birds may be found in most towns and agricultural areas in the West in winter. Interestingly, females and young birds migrate farther south in winter than males, reaching well into Mexico.