Let’s find out how to keep the little guys away from the feeders and learn about their personalities, as well as dive into the world of blackbirds.
Not every black avian is a blackbird
(Among others.) The bobolink, meadowlarks, cowbirds, orioles, grackles, as well as the Icteridae family members, are all blackbirds that are closely related. It’s simple to assume that these birds are all black.
These birds are vibrant in reality. Typically, the feathers of this species are warm-hued and display iridescent blues and greens, while lacking the more common orange and yellow feathers. It is fitting to use the technical term “Icterus” to describe the jaundice-like coloration found in many members of this bird family.
Crows have silky black feathers that are plain and lack any iridescence, unlike blackbirds. The color of their feathers is one of the easiest indicators. Crows are larger and more intelligent than blackbirds and belong to a different family. Knowing that crows are birds from the Corvidae family and different from blackbirds makes it easy to distinguish them.
Now that we are aware of what a genuine blackbird is, let’s explore the varieties that can be discovered in Texas.
Texas’ Varieties of Blackbirds
1. Mexican Grackle
Females, on the other hand, have a smaller appetite, which causes a “sex biased” population where more males than females are likely to reach fledgling stage, even as babies. The females, being smaller and lacking a large tail, tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to males.
When a researcher is working in their breeding colony, Great-tailed grackles often react with alarm when they see them, recognizing and remembering the faces of individual researchers.
Throughout the entire state of Texas, these birds can be observed throughout the year. This specific type of grackle is known to have 8 different subspecies, with two of them being found in Texas. The western part of the state (referred to as monsoni) is the habitat for one subspecies, while the other subspecies (known as prosopidicola) resides in the eastern half.
2. Red-shouldered Blackbird
Size: 6.7-9.1 inches.
Weight: 1.1 – 2.7 ounces.
Wingspan: 12.2 – 15.8 inches.
Male birds typically have black wings with a bright red patch on the shoulder, and underneath the red patch, there is usually a small bit of yellow.
Women are brown, striped, and sparrow-like, but bigger with a pinkish-orange throat.
Throughout the entire year in Texas, these blackbirds are the most commonly found species in the nation and can be observed. A nest can be discovered in nearly any overgrown ditch or damp, bushy environment.
During the breeding season, male Red-winged Blackbirds are extremely territorial and will fiercely defend their nests. They may spend hours chasing away potential predators, including humans, that come near their habitat. If a challenger ignores their displays and tries to approach, the dominant male will follow and block them, showing off their red shoulders to everyone. So, the next time you find yourself in this bird’s habitat, watch out, as you might get buzzed by an angry dialogue at the worst.
The males will conceal their crimson patches as best they can in order to evade conflicts and maintain harmony, regardless of their aggressive nature during the mating season. These avian creatures inhabit a common territory for searching food.
Encountering these birds mixed in large flocks with other Icterids, like grackles, cowbirds, and sometimes other blackbirds, is not uncommon.
3. Brewer’s Blackbird
Size: 7.9 – 9.8 inches.
Weight: 1.8 – 3.0 ounces.
Wingspan: 14.6 inches.
All males have a glossy sheen that is black in color. The feathers on their head are purple-blue and transition to blue-green down their body, exhibiting an iridescent shine. Their eyes are a vibrant shade of yellow.
The females of the Blackbird Rusty, when helpful, usually have dark, black eyes, which distinguish them from the males. They typically have no markings and their plumage is grey-brown, appearing drab and dull. Additionally, their wings and tail are dark in color.
During the winter months, the flocks that spend the season in Texas are quite migratory. They can be observed in various types of environments, including coastal shrublands, agricultural lands, and riverbanks, as well as parks and urban areas. Brewer’s Blackbirds can be encountered across the entire state of Texas before they return northward to reproduce.
Farmers sometimes remove certain pests such as caterpillars, weevils, grasshoppers, and cutworms from their farmlands to prevent insect outbreaks that could potentially poison or shoot them or affect their diet, as grains and seeds are also included. Brewer’s Blackbirds have long been recognized as a threat to farmers, as they can cause damage by snatching insects that farmers have grown to love. Therefore, farmers follow machinery in the agricultural fields with hopes of catching these insects and benefiting from them. You will find them pecking away at the ground, searching for insects and seeds. These birds usually forage in flocks, but do not mingle with other blackbirds.
4. Corroded Blackbird:
Size: 8.3 – 9.8 inches.
Weight: 1.7 – 2.8 ounces.
Wingspan: 14.6 inches.
Over the course of the different seasons, the color pattern of males undergoes alterations. During the summer breeding season, they display a black hue with subtle glossy iridescence, resembling Brewer’s Blackbird but lacking the same level of shine. In the fall and winter, their coloration shifts towards a more brown and cinnamon shade, resulting in an overall slightly “rusty” appearance.
In autumn and winter, the reproductive females undergo a transition to a darker, more reddish-brown shade and appear silvery grey. The females likewise adapt their coloration accordingly.
During the winter season, Rusty Blackbirds are primarily found in a few areas where the distributions of Brewer’s and Rusty overlap. This is because they are similar in appearance and one might question how to tell them apart.
Piece of cake! The Rusty Blackbird won’t stay black and iridescent, while the Brewer’s Blackbird will. When they migrate to Texas for the winter, it becomes simple to tell them apart because the Rusty Blackbird’s color transforms to a more brown and buffy shade during the fall and winter months. Fortunately, the Rusty Blackbird’s color alteration aids us, but there are few locations where these visually similar birds coexist.
Sparrows and robins enjoy consuming small avian creatures but have been recorded foraging for insects and seeds. These avian species are typically found in wooded areas with water, such as marshy or marshland regions, during the winter season.
5. Yellow-headed Blackbird: A Bird with a Yellow Head
Size: 9.3 – 10.2 inches.
Weight: 1.6 – 3.5 ounces.
Wingspan: 16.5 – 17.3 inches.
The males of this particular species possess vibrant yellow heads, sleek black bodies, and a contrasting white patch on their wings.
Women are generally more brown in color, with yellow on the chest and face.
Without mistaking it for any other bird, this simplifies the process of distinguishing the male Yellow-headed Blackbird–they possess distinctive visual characteristics, with no other avian species in North America that can be likened to them.
When migrating, large, noisy flocks of birds travel together. While the majority of them travel to Mexico, there might be a few birds that choose to spend their winter on the southern edges of Texas. These birds don’t stick around for too long, as they migrate through Texas to reach their wintering and breeding grounds.
Often characterized as mechanical and lacking musicality, Yellow-headed Blackbirds possess infamously loud voices. While their vocalizations may not be pleasant to hear, their striking appearance makes up for it. Expect these noisy creatures to pass by your property during their migration in either direction.
From the Pleistocene, fossils dating back to 100,000 years ago have been dug up in California, New Mexico, and Utah. Fun fact!
Coping with blackbirds
Blackbirds may appear attractive with their shiny feathers and sleek bodies, although they may not be the type of birds you desire to have around your house or feeders.
Bills will steal all the food right out of their feeders, but scaring them away from your feeders will prevent them from hogging all the food. They can be rude feeders, often outnumbering any given species of songbirds. They can be insensitive bullies, especially when there are two of them. It’s not always a pleasant sound, like the last bird we talked about, and they are noisy for sure.
Replace your feeder.
If you need a new feeder, this includes feeders that have small holes and small perches for retrieving food. If you want something different, that’s a style of feeder that is unfriendly to blackbirds. They won’t be able to hang on for long enough to get a bite because they are bulky and large. They will also look somewhere else to perch and feed, so they will have to collapse their work.
In other locations, blackbirds will go somewhere else and engage in acrobatics, but chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are not blackbirds. They are great feeders that hang upside down. Blackbirds cannot be bothered by using feeders that have suet cages hanging upside down, and finch feeders have holes placed below the perch to force the bird to turn upside down. Another unfriendly style of feeder for blackbirds are those that require the bird to hang upside down to get food.
Replace your seed.
Fortunately, if you don’t hang it around, blackbirds won’t be interested in safflower seeds, making it a truly enjoyable experience for songbirds. If you don’t want to fill your feeders with just a single safflower seed, the solution is to purchase a seed mix. Many store-bought seed bags contain a mix of seeds that are appealing to these delightful blackbirds, such as milo, millet, sunflower seeds, and corn.
Provide them with their own food dispenser.
In any case, you can even indulge in the act of throwing dirt and grass around, resembling blackbirds strutting on the ground. It doesn’t require anything fancy. To satisfy their favorite cravings, you can fill up large feeders with milo seed, millet seed, sunflower seeds, and corn. If it seems like they can’t keep their beaks out of your other feeders, you can try setting up their own feeding station, far away from your feeders.
Blackbirds might not be a backyard birder’s most desirable visitor, but it’s hard to not appreciate their bold personalities and beautiful coloring.