Return of Bird of the Week: Brewer’s Blackbird

We’ll take a reprieve break from the unending photos of flycatchers for a bit and celebrate the imminence of spring with a blackbird, specifically the Brewer’s Blackbird.

Brewer's Blackbird, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Brewer’s Blackbird, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Brewer’s Blackbirds get no respect. They don’t have the flashy colors like their cousins, and the are so common in season that we take them for granted. But the males, in the right light, have the beautiful green iridescence and that attention-grabbing yellow eye.

Brewer's Blackbird Courtship Display, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Brewer’s Blackbird Courtship Display, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

WC doesn’t usually do much high key bird photo work; it seems to distract from the bird as the subject. But this shot of a male doing a courtship display seemed to work pretty well. From mid-April to mid-May, it’s hard to escape the “Dzzzzzzzsqueee” songs as the males try to attract mates, warn off rivals and annoy birders. The songs have been measured as sung as often as seven times a minute.

Brewer’s Blackbird is one of the all-time beneficiaries of humankind’s alteration of the environment. As Birds of North America (paywall) wrote:

Brewer’s Blackbird was not recorded nesting east of western Minnesota before 1914. Beginning about then and continuing over the next four decades, it undertook a rapid, leap-frog patterned eastward expansion of its breeding range, extending nesting populations approximately 1,200 km at an advancement rate averaging 18 km/year. The pioneering birds took advantage of forest clearing and land conversion to agriculture, and followed linear highway, railroad, and utility corridors to penetrate unfavorable barriers and reach new areas of appropriate breeding habitat. Extension of the species’ nesting range also occurred in western Canada, as Brewer’s Blackbirds moved 300 km north of their traditional breeding areas to eventually reach southern Mackenzie. Enlargement of the range used by wintering birds occurred concurrently, and now the species is common during winter in the southeastern United States. Today, the Brewer’s Blackbird is viewed as a model for understanding avian range expansions promoted by human alterations in habitat.

In southern Arizona and along the Salton Sea in California, WC has seen flocks of Brewer’s Blackbirds numbering in the thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Proof that while most anthropogenic change is bad, that’s not always the case.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.



One thought on “Return of Bird of the Week: Brewer’s Blackbird

  1. “Change is Good” … Brewer’s convocation theme … kind of reminds me of “Greed is Good” … Gordon Gekko … and a multitude of politicians, big pharma denizens, corporate wonks and more.

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