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Brewer's Blackbird - BirdForum Opus

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Euphagus cyanocephalus
Adult male
Photo © by Fulmar
Point Vicente, Palos Verdes Peninsula, California, USA, 5 February 2004


Photo © by Deerbird
Kentucky, USA, 9 April 2021

21-23 cm (8¼-9 in)
Slightly smaller than an American Robin or Eurasian Blackbird.
Male: is black overall with a blue, or purplish-blue iridescence on the body and greenish iridescence on the head and neck. The exact color seen depends on the angle of the bird. The eyes are whitish-yellow.
Female: Is grayish-brown overall with dark eyes (except a few birds that show yellow eyes).
Immature birds are similar to females.

Similar Species

Rusty Blackbird male is overall black in breeding plumage lacking the iridescent colors of Brewer's Blackbird. In non-breeding plumage Rusty Blackbird has strong copper-rufous fringes to the mantle wing coverts and tertials usually lacking in Brewer's. Female Rusty Blackbird has pale iris and very rusty colored in winter. Great-tailed Grackle male is much larger with longer, keel-shaped tail and more blended coloring. Common Grackle both sexes are also larger with keeled tail and has greenish or bluish head.


Breeds from the Great Lakes westward through the northern US and Western Canada. Occurs year round in the Pacific states and Great Basin area. Winters eastward to Arkansas and Mississippi.


Recently fledged juvenile
Photo © by Marysan
Escondido, California, 25 May 2005

This is a monotypic species[1] according to some accounts, others recognize three subspecies: minusculus, brewsteri, and cyanocephalus. These differ mainly in size, but not in male plumage.

The two Euphagus Blackbirds are closely related to the Grackles and are often called by the same name in other languages; (ie Quiscale in French).


Prefers open areas such as ranches and open savanna type habitats with scattered trees. Often found near water. Also a bird of urban areas especially parks and school campuses. Can be a pest around outdoor eating areas.


Generally gregarious most of the time but can be seen singly or in pairs as well. Can be very aggressive when breeding, often attacking any large creature that ventures too close including people. In some areas very common in parking lots, where it will cach insects off the front of parked cars.


Compared to other blackbirds, its undulating flight is more shallow, more-grackle like. On the ground it walks with a bobbing head, it does not hop.


Cup shaped nest constructed by female. Clutch of 3-7 variably colored eggs. Polygynous in western part of range.


Invertebrates, mostly insects, small vertebrates, seeds; more rarely, fruits.


Both sexes give a harsh check call. Lighter than the chuck calls given by grackles. Males also give wheezy songs. A high t,zzzeeee and an almost sneezing ssleeeeezzz. As well as a throaty gurgle. May also give a high clear teeeeee or teeeeer. Usually level in pitch.


Resident along Pacific coastal region, from SW British Columbia (Canada) S to N Baja California. Elsewhere migratory or partly migratory.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Pyle, Peter 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California. ISBN 0-9618940-2-4
  3. Birdforum thread including information about parking lot behavior.
  4. Martin, S. G. (2020). Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.brebla.01
  5. Jaramillo, A., & Burke, P. (1999). New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00680-6

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