Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Monday, December 08, 2008

Brewer's Blackbirds?

Sunday afternoon a flock of a thousand or more Blackbirds moved through our neighborhood, including many Red-winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Common Grackles – and maybe Brewer’s Blackbirds. These were a brilliant iridescent green that stood out among all the other birds. Their heads showed a sheen of purple, and they had pale yellow eyes and rather long tails. Also, there were drab, grayish individuals with dark eyes that looked like Brewer’s females.

It was a beautiful day – cold, clear, with an intensely blue sky and brisk wind. I heard the Blackbird gathering as I was walking, and at first they were in trees in an area where I couldn’t see them well, but as I headed back toward home, they began flying over me in waves, settling on grassy yards and in trees, then flying up again with a hollow whoosh of wings each time as I got too close. There were so many that it was exhilarating just to stand as they flew over, settled, and flew again – hundreds of birds in restless motion all around me, calling in several different raspy, creaking voices.

Once, as three or four dozen Red-winged Blackbirds flew up suddenly together, their red wing-patches all flashed in synchrony – a stunning sight.

In one area where many Blackbirds had settled on pale tan grass, there was a small group foraging together, with shimmering emerald-green plumage. I watched especially two of the males that were closest to me, and they seemed to have a habit of frequently cocking their tails up just slightly and quickly.

I don’t fully trust myself on this identification, because I might have been fooled by the light, and I’ve never seen a Brewer’s Blackbird before, and I think they are still considered uncommon in this area. But on the other hand, their coloring, posture, and shape was distinctly different from either the Rusty Blackbirds or Red-winged, both of which were in the same flock. I’ve posted the sighting on a local birding site and am hoping another birder might be interested in coming by to check them out – and maybe confirm it, or not. This large flock of Blackbirds has been around our neighborhood often recently – just about any time of day – though it’s impossible to predict exactly where they’ll be or when.


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