Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Blackbirds of November

Outside my shop everyday for the past few weeks I have heard the noisy but fun to see blackbirds. They gather in large flocks and are quite raucous. Our most commonly seen blackbirds are the common grackle, the great-tailed grackle, the brown-headed cowbird, the red-winged blackbird and two birds which are not really members of the blackbird family but also have dark shiny feathers- the American Crow and the European starling. 
 To most of us blackbirds seem alike and are hard to distinguish. Some ways of telling the difference in these birds is to look at the size of the bird and the profile of its body and beak. 
 The American Crow is the is the largest of these birds at about twelve and a half inches with a large heavy black beak and black eyes. The grackles are smaller and slimmer than the crow (except for the great-tailed grackle which can be as long as a Crow.) Grackles have yellow eyes. The great-tailed grackle has a big keel-shaped tail which is almost a long as the body. 
 The European Starling were brought into the U. S. around 1890 where about sixty of the birds were released into Central Park in New York City. They have now multiplied and spread across the country. They have a speckled iridescence of purple green and black and are the only blackbird with a yellow beak. The brown-headed cowbird is a pest as they lay their eggs in the nest of another species of bird, having the other parent bird raise the young instead of its own. The male bird has a dull brown head and a dull black body and the female is gray-brown overall, both male and female are short and stumpy and have heavy wedgelike beaks. The red winged blackbird is our least common here but is wonderful to see The male is black overall except for the bright red epaulets, or shoulder patches, which can be seen on the upper part of the wing when the bird is at rest. A thin yellow trim lies along the botton of the red patch. The female is a dark brown above and heavily streaked in brown over her underparts. 
 Many blackbirds are roosting in our trees here in Old Town Spring. Enjoy them and our great fall weather. 

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