Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Oct. 4, 2007)
Brewers blackbirds flock to Tampa Bay
Even though Sept. 23 was officially the first day of fall, the signs of autumn
arent quite as obvious in Florida as our northern counterparts, unless the
more apparent signs like heavier than normal highway traffic, fewer unoccupied mall
parking spaces and longer lines at restaurants are considered.
|Photo by LEE KARNEY
COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
|The sun reflects like tiny
prisms upon the beautiful, iridescent feathers of the Brewers
One really has to get out and carefully observe natural Florida to notice that the
cypress trees are changing gradually to a yellow-green, the beauty berry is
beginning to produce beautiful magenta berries, the dreaded love bugs and the
alluring dragonflies have begun to gather in large numbers, turkey tracks can be
seen again in the sand of the damp woods, tropical storms hover off the Florida
coastline and intermittently birders can spot large flocks of birds traveling
together again as the winter migration time draws closer.
Several readers have inquired about the great flocks of blackbirds with bright
yellow eyes that have been gathering in yards, trees, on power-lines, fields, parks
and feeders. The birds you are seeing are most likely Brewers blackbirds:
Brewers blackbirds, named after ornithologist Thomas Mayo Brewer, are fairly
common blackbirds. The males are black birds with a deep, glossy purple luster to
their head and neck feathers and a metallic greenish-purple sheen over their bodies
and wings. They are very beautiful birds. The females and juveniles are
brownish-gray. Males have bright whitish-yellow eyes. The eyes of the female
Brewers blackbird are dark brown. Brewers blackbirds have a harsh,
Brewers blackbirds are easily confused with Rusty Blackbirds which are the
same size, 9 inches. The bill of the Rusty Blackbird is longer and the eye of the
female is yellow. The colorful reflections on the Brewers Blackbird are much
more brilliant than on the duller Rusty Blackbird.
In winter, one sure way to identify the two birds is to observe the females. The
Rusty female is rusty brown in winter, gray in spring with a distinguishable, light
yellow eye. Another bird that Brewers are sometimes confused with is the
common grackle, but the grackle is a larger bird of 11 inches and has a long,
Brewers blackbirds nest in colonies. Unless there is a surplus of females,
males generally seem to stay with the same mate. The male and female pair separate
during winter, joining each other each spring. This accounts for seeing large
flocks of either sex almost exclusively. This behavior also attributes to the
difficulty some people have in identifying males without females present in the
Brewers like to forage in large flocks with other blackbirds for insects
near shallow water, fields, prairies, suburbs, parks and farms. Brewers have
no qualms about foraging through human garbage either, but for the most part
Brewers blackbirds are beneficial eating large quantities of grasshoppers,
caterpillars and destructive agricultural insect pests.
They also enjoy seeds and berries. These gregarious opportunists have successfully
expanded their territory from western to the eastern United States over the past 60
years making the Brewers blackbird a not so uncommon sight in autumn in
Florida ... back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.