Blackbirds, Orioles, and Cowbirds
Blackbirds, orioles and cowbirds are members of family icteridae. And while each is found around the Lake, their presence is variable. Red-winged Blackbirds are common some places and uncommon elsewhere. Cowbirds are fairly easy to find, especially in spring and summer, but orioles are harder to locate.
A female Brewer’s Blackbird
A female Brewer’s Blackbird has a worm which it is about to deliver to its chicks.
A female Brewer’s Blackbird sits in a spruce tree.
The male Brewer’s Blackbird is slightly darker than the female and it has yellow eyes. This one is deploying its alulae.
A Brewer’s Blackbird is just lifting off a perch and has yet to tuck up its feet.
The cowbird is named from its practice of following cattle (at onetime the buffalo) and eating the insects stirred up by the hooves. This made it nomadic, which in turn inhibited nesting. So, the cowbird would lay its eggs in the nests of other birds and keep on moving with the herd. It is known to parasitize dozens of species of songbirds, many of which raise its young as their own. This is a male Brown-headed Cowbird.
This Brown-headed Cowbird is challenging its reflection in a window. It is mating season and the cowbird is attempting to block the (apparent) interloper from access to its mate. The head goes down, the wings come up, and a song of challenge is sung (it sounds like the beeps of a video game).
The juvenile Cowbird looks different than the adult. This one walked around on the grass following a lawnmower and eating the displaced bugs. It was instinctively following a big grass–chewing object, just as its ancestors followed bison.
I have yet to see an oriole, but as this oriole nest suggests, they are found around here. The nest was located only tens of meters from the water’s edge. It was likely made by a Bullock’s Oriole.
These are two male Red-winged Blackbirds. Apparently the red and yellow shoulder patches are important in competitions for territory. The larger the patch, the more territory the bird gains.