Rusty Blackbirds

Late this afternoon – another cold, damp, dark gray day – a small flock of Rusty Blackbirds fed in the bleached-brown grass of a yard down the street from our house, beneath bare-limbed pecan trees. Still in winter plumage, the black males showed a lot of rusty or cinnamon color, especially across the wings, head and back, and the females were even more handsome, in tawny shades of tan and reddish-brown, with a prominent dark eye-line against a pale brown face. Rusty Blackbirds are only here in the winter, but it might be argued that we get to see them in their most appealing colors. In breeding plumage, the males are all black and the females are blackish gray – but during the fall and winter, they glow with the varied rusty highlights that give them their name.

Flocks of Common Grackles – larger, glossy black birds with long tails, large bills, and harsh voices are common here in the winter, and occasionally Red-winged Blackbirds with their more appealing “con-ka-reee” calls will join them. But Rusty Blackbirds are much less common. As these moved restlessly from one yard to the next, they also seemed shyer, more easily startled into flight, and less noisy than other Blackbird flocks.

Leave a Reply