Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) in New York 10 Feb 1999

Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) is a rare visitor to New York State, especially to the eastern and southern parts of the state. On the coast, records tend to be from the late fall (Oct and Nov) whereas in the western parts of the state, reports tend to come from the spring - perhaps reflecting birds that have overshot the nearest breeding grounds in neighbouring Ontario. On Tuesday 9th Feb 1999 Dick Veit sent news of a male Brewer's Blackbird that was frequenting a suburban yard on the south shore of Staten Island. The homeowner, who had correctly identified the bird and called it in to a local birder, reports that it had been around for about a week.

The following morning, I joined Dick Veit and Tom Brown shortly after day break. The male Brewer's Blackbird was easily picked out among the small group of Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and Starlings coming to seed put out by the homeowner. The Brewer's Blackbird was calling loudly (a harsh check) and regularly broke into song (if you can call it that) - a grating Ksheeek. A little nervous of our presence in the narrow street, it shuffled up onto the crest of the house and then took flight vanishing over the houses. The flock did not return to the yard during the next couple of hours that I was there. I did see the bird once more, however, as it perched high in a tree several streets away.

Here are the three pictures I managed to snatch as the bird shuffled along the edge of a sunlit roof before taking flight.

Figure 1. The pale yellow eye is very obvious. Small headed with a relatively straight bill. The head showed a noticable purple sheen especially behined the eye.

Figure 2. The tail appeared slightly longer than that of Red-winged Blackbird.

Figure 3. The greenish gloss to the body is more obvious in this picture.

Figure 4. As a comparison, here is a snap of a male Brewer's Blackbird in its native habitat - the trash cans of Fisherman's Warf in Monterey, California. The picture was taken in late July 1998.

Photographs and page layout copyright ofAngus Wilson© 1999 All rights reserved.
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