In full sun, a male Brewer's Blackbird is a lovely glossy black, purplish on the head and greenish on the back, with a bright yellow eye. The female is a modest gray-brown with a dark eye. It breeds in a variety of habitats in the western half of North America, including many human-created habitats, such as lawns, golf courses, and parks. Some birds are year round residents in the west, while others migrate to the southeastern United States and Mexico. Brewer's Blackbirds are found in Tennessee during the non-breeding season, and are uncommon across the state, arriving by late November, and departing by early April. They often gather in flocks with other blackbirds.
Description: This slender, long-tailed blackbird has a round head, and a long, thick-based bill. Males have a yellow eye, and are overall glossy black, with a purple sheen to the head and neck, and a green gloss on the body and wings. Females are a dull gray-brown, darkest on the wings and tail, and usually have a dark eye; 10% of females have a pale eye. First year males (August-January) have a pale eye but are blackish-brown without a sheen to the feathers.
Weight: 2.2 oz.
Voice: The song is a short, high, crackling t-kzzz.
- Common Grackles also have a yellow eye, but are much larger, have a longer tail, and a longer, heavier bill.
- Rusty Blackbird males have a yellow eye and look very similar, but are less glossy overall in breeding plumage, and rusty-patterned in winter. Females always have a pale eye, and are bright rusty in winter.
- Red-winged Blackbird females are heavily streaked with brown.
- Brown-headed Cowbird males have a brown head and a dark eye, females are paler overall, and their bills are shorter and deeper
Habitat: In Tennessee, found in barnyard feedlots, and grassy pastures, usually in wet areas.
Diet: Seeds and insects.
Nesting and reproduction: There are no records of Brewer's Blackbird nesting in Tennessee.
Status in Tennessee: Brewer's Blackbird is a regular but uncommon to rare migrant across the state, but more likely to be found in West Tennessee. Arrives by late November, and departs by early April.
Dynamic map of Brewer's Blackbird eBird observations in Tennessee
- Late in his career in 1843, John James Audubon (1785-1851) collected several specimens of a blackbird that he thought was new to science, and named this bird Quiscalus breweri after his friend and fellow ornithologist Thomas Mayo Brewer (1814-1880). However, Johann Georg Wagler (1800-1832), a German herpetologist had already described this species in 1829 naming it Psarocolius cyanocephalus, for its bluish glossy head. The current scientific name retains Wagler's original scientific epithet, while the common name still honors Brewer.
- Permits are sometimes issued to shot, trap, or poison Brewer's Blackbirds around agricultural fields in an attempt to protect crops. Although they do eat grains, this species seeks out insects and is more a friend to the farmer and can help curb outbreaks of insect pests such weevils, cutworms, termites, grasshoppers, and tent caterpillars, among others.
- The oldest known Brewer's Blackbirds in the wild was 12 years 6 months old.
Best place to see in Tennessee: Reelfoot Lake, Kyker Road in western Washington County, Cove Lake St Pk. Campbell County
For more information:
Martin, S. G. 2002. Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus). The Birds of North America, No. 616. (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.