Archive for Icterid (blackbird)

Red-winged Blackbird male 3/12/18

Everyone has their surefire harbingers of spring, Red-wing Blackbirds singing konk-a-ree are mine.


Baltimore Oriole male 5/19/17

As colorful as they are, Orioles belong to the blackbird family Icteridae, which also includes grackles, bobolinks, oropendolas, and caciques. For a time it was thought that Bullocks and Baltimore Orioles were the same species and were together renamed the Northern Oriole, but later it was discovered they didn’t hybridize as much as was previously thought, and the earlier nomenclature was reinstated. When Baltimore Orioles first return in the spring they are still on a winter diet of fruits and nectar, and will come to feeding stations providing oranges and jellies, but then soon switch to a diet of insects and invertebrates.


Baltimore Oriole female 5/18/16


It’s strange how many birders only post photos of the more colorful adult male birds. Several flutey Baltimore males have been around for over a week now and for sure their rich orange coat is brilliant, but ain’t she purdy? She’s a little flutey herself though in a soft-talking way, and she chatters softly too. I’m seeing more Balties this year than in many a year, and not sure what’s up with that, maybe just lucky. This female seems to be one of a pair I hear more than see, high up in a nearby maple. She’ll weave a remarkable bag-like hanging nest out of long fibers, often recycled from previous nests. Look at that blackbird bill! They like parkland—scattered trees with open spaces and they’re no strangers to residential and rural neighborhoods, but you won’t find them in a thick forest, except maybe along the edge of it.


Orchard Oriole male 5/11/16


While Baltimore Orioles are bigger and brighter, Orchard Orioles are less commonly seen. They aren’t exactly rare, just don’t stand out as much as their more brilliant cousins. Unless you look carefully you may easily mistake the male for an American Robin with that dark head and rusty red underside. Females are similarly sized but a dull yellow all over with darker wings and tail. In this same tree and at the same time was a similarly sized yellowish bird I first took for a female, but once I had it in my sights it had black around the bill and throat meaning it was a first-year (immature) male. Orchard Orioles only have one brood early on and once that brood has fledged, the parents don’t stick around until fall but immediately migrate back to Central America—another reason they’re not often spotted. All orioles are blackbirds, belonging to the Icteridae family.


Red-winged Blackbird male 4/20/16


The salt marshes here are freshening with life, and other arrivals like Turkey Vultures, Killdeer, and Grackles have also made their appearance. Male Red-wings arrive on their territories ahead of the females which are just showing up now. This one was displaying and chasing other males for the prime perches behind the beach at Seapoint, hunching his back and throwing out his shoulders and scarlet epaulets while calling a lusty Konk-a-reeeee!


Common Grackle 5/25/15



Red-winged Blackbird male 12/15/14


It’s not all that unusual to come across Red-winged Blackbirds during the winter in northern New England—just a little farther south and in most of the country they are year round birds. In winter their diet shifts from insects to weed seeds, so you’re more likely to spot them foraging on the ground in flocks with starlings and other blackbirds, but they’ll also show up at bird feeders, especially after snowfalls. In winter the bright red epaulettes of adult males, like the one above, are worn and barely evident, but soon after the new year he’ll get a fresh suit in time for spring courting.


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