ICTERIDAE of North America

The Icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colorful birds, restricted to the New World. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. The majority of icterid species live in the tropics, although there are a number of temperate forms. They inhabit a range of habitats, including scrub, swamp, forest, and savannah. Temperate species are migratory. Icterids are variable in size, and often display considerable sexual dimorphism. Their size varies 15-52 cm. One unusual adaptation shared is they can open their bills strongly rather than passively, allowing them to force open gaps to obtain otherwise hidden food. Some use their gaping motion to open the skins of fruit to obtain the soft insides, and have long bills adapted to the process. Others such as cowbirds have shorter stubbier bills for crushing seeds. Orioles will drink nectar. The nesting habits of these birds are similarly variable. [abstracted from Wikipedia]



Blackbirds

Order Passeriformes    Family Icteridae

These blackbirds are not to be confused with the European blackbird Turdus merula which is called Blackbird. The New World blackbirds have a a diet of mainly seeds and insects, with seeds usually being predominant. The males are mostly dark with often some colorful patches. The females are drab and some resemble New World sparrows.


Genus Agelaius

Blackbird, Red-winged Agelaius phoeniceus   Found: North America, Central America
The male Red-winged Blackbird has all black plumage except for a mainly red shoulder patch. At rest, a yellow border to the red shoulder patch is visible. Female has dark brown upperparts; dark striped underparts.
Similar to: Pine Siskin. Pine Siskin has striped underparts; female Red-winged Blackbird has blurry underparts.
Similar to: Tricolored Blackbird. Tricolored Blackbird is restricted to near the west coastal areas of North America. Male Tricolored's lower shoulder patch is bright white while the male Red-wing's is yellowish. Female Red-winged Blackbird is reddish brownish; female Tricolored Blackbird tends more to gray.
Image by:  1, 6) Dick Daniels - North Carolina   2, 3) Dick Daniels - Ontario  4) Mdf    5) Dick - Wyoming   7) Alan D. Wilson   8) Ted Grussing - Arizona
1) Juvenile male  2, 3, 4, 5) Female  6, 7, 8) Male


Blackbird, Tricolored  Agelaius tricolor   Found: North America (Oregon to northern Mexico)
The male Tricolored-winged Blackbird has all black plumage except for a mainly red shoulder patch. At rest, a white border to the red shoulder patch is visible. Female has dark gray upperparts; dark striped underparts.
Similar to: Red-winged Blackbird. Tricolored Blackbird is restricted to near the west coastal areas of North America. Male Tricolored's lower shoulder patch is bright white while the male Red-wing's is yellowish. Female Red-winged Blackbird is reddish brownish; female Tricolored Blackbird tends more to gray.
Image by: 1) Alan Vernon - Californai  2) Tsuru8  2) Marcel Holyoak - California    3, 4) Maggie Smith - California  5) Charlie Westerinen - Soldier Hollow, Utah, USA
1) Female  2 - 6) Male




Genus Dives

Blackbird, Melodious  Dives dives   Found: Mexico, Central America
The Melodious Black has glossly black plumage with a bluish gloss; brown iris; black legs, feet.
Image by: 1) Beilzian - Belize



Genus Euphagus
This genus has two species. The adult males have mainly black plumage and a bright yellow eye; the females are dark gray-brown. They build cup nests, and the female alone incubates the eggs. They are gregarious outside the breeding season. Both species feed on seeds and insects,

Blackbird, Brewer's Euphagus cyanocephalus Found: North America
The male Brewer's Blackbird has black plumage; bright yellow eye. Female has dark gray plumage; most have dark eyes.
Similar to: Brown-headed Cowbird. Brown-headed Cowbird has larger (more stout) bill than Brewer's Blackbird. Brewster's Blackbird has lighter eyes. The male Brown-headed Cowbird is obvious for its brown head.
Similar to: Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle. Brewer's Blackbird has a smaller bill.
Similar to: Rusty Blackbird. Brewer's Black prefers open habitat, Rusty Black bird prefers wooded. Rusty Blackbird has bigger bill than Brewer's Blackbird. Male Brewer's are usually more glossy than male Rusty. Most female Brewer's Blackbirds have a dark eye. If a female Brewer's Blackbird does have pale eyes, they are not as bright as the pale yellow eyes of a female Rusty Blackbird.
Image by: 1) Alan D Wilson - Banff National Park, Alberta  2) Len Blumin - California  3) Alan Vernon   4) Dick Daniels- Wyoming 5,  6,  7, 8, 9, 10) Dick - California  
1) Juvenile  2) Female with pale eye (uncommon)  3 - 6) Females with dark eye  7, 8, 9) Male


Blackbird, Rusty Euphagus carolinus   Found: North America
The breeding male Rusty Blackbird has black plumage; pale yellow eye. Breeding female has dark gray plumage; pale yellow eyes. Nonbreeding bird has rusty-brown upperparts.
Similar to: Brewer's Blackbird.  Brewer's Black prefers open habitat, Rusty Black bird prefers wooded. Rusty Blackbird has bigger bill than Brewer's Blackbird. Male Brewer's are usually more glossy than male Rusty. Most female Brewer's Blackbirds have a dark eye. If a female Brewer's Blackbird does have pale eyes, they are not as bright as the pale yellow eyes of a female Rusty Blackbird.
Image by: 1) Mdf - Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada  2) Jeff Whitlock - Texas  3, 8) Seabrooke Leckie      4) Ed Galliard - New York  5, 6) Dick Daniels - Southport, North Carolina   7)  Stylurus - Michigan   9)   Don Faulkner - South Carolina   
1, 2) Nonbreeding female  3) Breeding female  4 - 7) Nonbreeding male   8, 9) Breeding male





Genus Xanthocephalus - 1 species

Blackbird, Yellow-headed Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus   Found: southwest Canada, west and central USA, Mexico
The male Yellow-headed Blackbird has mainly black plumage; yellow head, breast. Female has mainly brown plumage; dull yellow throat, breast.
Image by:   1) Michelle Lamberson - British Columbia   2) Alan D. Wilson  - Oregon  3) Phil Norton, USFWS  4) Dave Minke, USFWS  5) Eugene Beckes  6) Dick Thies
1, 2, 3) Female  4, 5, 6) Male




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