Brewer's Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

A shiny blue-green blackbird, the Brewer's Blackbird is common in agricultural and suburban habitats of the West. It has taken advantage of human modifications of the environment to expand its range eastward.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Brewer's Blackbird spread its range eastward from western Minnesota in the 20th century, taking advantage of human-produced changes in landscape. Where it overlaps with the Common Grackle, the blackbird takes over the open grassy areas, while the grackle dominates in urban and suburban areas.
  • The Brewer's Blackbird nests in compact colonies, numbering from a few pairs to more than one hundred. Occasionally a pair will nest solitarily away from a colony. In the colony a female (sometimes aided by a male) defends a small area directly around her nest site.
  • Within a colony most females choose the same kind of nest site, indicating that females follow the lead of the first nest builders. A colony may change its nest preference from year to year, building all nests in small bushes one year, and in tall trees the next.

Description

  • Size: 20-25 cm (8-10 in)
  • Wingspan: 37 cm (15 in)
  • Weight: 47-67 g (1.66-2.37 ounces) Medium-sized songbird.
  • Medium-long tail.
  • Bill thin and pointed.
  • Male iridescent black with purple and green highlights, female dull gray-brown.
  • Tail square or slightly rounded.
Male
Black all over. Head and neck have purplish iridescence. Body has blue-green iridescence. Shows contrast between colors of head and body. Wing and tail edged with brown. Eyes pale yellow or white.
Female
Grayish brown. Light purplish gloss on head and neck. Faint metallic greenish sheen on body. Wings and tail darker and glossier. Sides of head paler than crown. Dark eyeline. Eyes light to dark brown.
Immature
Juvenile is similar to adult female, but paler and without gloss. Some immature males have brown feather edging.
 
Sex Differences
Male iridescent black. Female dull gray-brown and slightly smaller.
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Euphagus
Species: Euphagus cyanocephalus
Sound
Song a harsh whirring gurgling "schl-r-r-up." Call a sharp "tschup."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 22-26 cm (8.75-10.25 in)
  • Weight: 68 g (2.4 oz)
  • Size: 3. Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Black, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: Black with blue-green sheen.
  • Upperparts: Black with blue-green sheen.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: Dagger, All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown in fledglings. In males, changes to grayish white then yellow with age; Females brown, infrequently yellow.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Black with purple sheen.
  • Forehead Color: Black with purple sheen.
  • Nape Color: Black with purple sheen.
  • Throat Color: Black with purple sheen.
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Strong direct flight with powerful rapid wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 36-41 cm (14-16 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black with blue-green sheen.
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Black
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Open landscapes, Bushes, shrubs, and thickets, Marshes, freshwater, Swamps
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, May be polygamous
  • Breeding Population:
  • Egg Color: Light green or gray green marked with gray brown
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 12 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Conifer needles, grasses, and sticks with inside cup of mud or cow manure.
  • Migration: Northern birds migrat
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse pale gray down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Quiscale des Brewer (French)

  • Rusty Blackbird similar, breeds farther east and north. Rusty has shorter legs, shorter tail, thinner and more pointed bill with slight droop at tip. Male Rusty Blackbird is less glossy and shows no contrast between head and body. Female Rusty Blackbird has yellow eyes and is slate-gray rather than brownish gray. Caution: up to 10% of female Brewer's have yellow eyes.
  • Common Grackle larger, has larger and thicker bill, and longer wedge-shaped tail.
  • Shiny Cowbird male has dark eye and shorter bill.

Conservation Status

Widespread and abundant. Not considered threatened, but declines noticed in parts of range.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found in a variety of habitats, but prefers open, human-modified areas, such as farmland, fields, residential lawns, and urban parks.
  • Martin, S. G. 2002. Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus). In The Birds of North America, No. 616 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Food
Insects, grain, seeds, and small fruits.
Behavior
Forages on ground, often in large flocks with other blackbirds.

Adult Male

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Female

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Videos
Brewer's Blackbird - Bathing
Brewer's Blackbird - Female
Brewer's Blackbird - Female
 

All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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