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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Brewer's Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A bird to be seen in the full sun, the male Brewer’s Blackbird is a glossy, almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green. Females are a staid brown, without the male’s bright eye or the female Red-winged Blackbird’s streaks. Common in towns and open habitats of much of the West, you’ll see these long-legged, ground-foraging birds on sidewalks and city parks as well as chuckling in flocks atop shrubs, trees, and reeds.

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Keys to identification Help

Blackbirds
Blackbirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    A small, fairly long-legged songbird with the well-proportioned look of many blackbirds: the fairly long tail is balanced by a full body, round head, and long, thick-based beak. In perching males, the tail appears widened and rounded toward the tip.

  • Color Pattern

    Males are glossy black all over with a staring yellow eye and a blue sheen on the head grading to greenish iridescence on the body. Females are plainer brown, darkest on the wings and tail, with a dark eye. Immature birds look like washed out, lighter-brown versions of the females.

  • Behavior

    Brewer’s Blackbirds feed on open ground or underfoot in parks and busy streets. Their long legs give them a halting walk, head jerking with each step almost like a chicken’s. In flocks, Brewer’s Blackbirds rise and fall as they fly. At landing, birds may circle in a slow fluttering flight before settling.

  • Habitat

    Look for Brewer’s Blackbirds in open habitats of the West, such as coastal scrub, grasslands, riversides, meadows, as well as lawns, golf courses, parks, and city streets.

Range Map Help

Brewer
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Adult male
    • Very glossy black overall (may appear green, blue, or purple)
    • Fairly long tail
    • Yellow eye
    • © Jamie Chavez, Santa Maria, California, September 2008
  • Adult male

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Adult male
    • Very glossy black overall (may appear green, blue, or purple)
    • Sleek shape
    • Yellow eye
    • © Laura Erickson, Santa Barbara, California, August 2005
  • Flock

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Flock
    • Commonly gathers in large flocks
    • © Gregg Lee, Somervell County, Texas, January 2009
  • Adult male and female

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Adult male and female
    • Male glossy black overall, with yellow eye
    • Females and juveniles overall drab grayish brown, usually with dark eyes
    • © Eric Rosenberg, San Jose, California, June 2007
  • Adult female

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Adult female
    • Dull grayish brown overall
    • Fairly long tail
    • Dark eye (occasionally pale)
    • © The Veteran Naturalist, Bodega Bay, California, October 2008
  • Adult male

    Brewer's Blackbird

    Adult male
    • Glossy black overall
    • Fairly long tail
    • Fairly short, straight, conical bill
    • © Len Blumin, San Francisco, California, April 2007

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Brown-headed Cowbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to male Brewer's Blackbird
    • Stocky and shorter-tailed
    • Less glossy overall
    • Brown head contrasts with black body
    • Thicker bill
    • © ashockenberry, Ontario, Canada, September 2008
  • Adult female

    Brown-headed Cowbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to female Brewer's Blackbird
    • Stocky and shorter-tailed
    • Lighter grayish brown overall
    • Thicker bill
    • Always dark eye
    • © Beth Graham, Woodstown, New Jersey, February 2009
  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Similar to male Brewer's Blackbird
    • Larger, much longer tailed
    • Large bill
    • © Jim Gilbert, New Jersey, October 2008
  • Adult male nonbreeding

    Rusty Blackbird

    Adult male nonbreeding
    • Similar to nonbreeding male Brewer's Blackbird
    • Rufous patterning across head and body
    • © Jim Gilbert, New Jersey, October 2008
  • Adult female

    Red-winged Blackbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to female Brewer's Blackbird
    • Very streaky overall
    • © Matt MacGillivray, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 2008
  • Adult male

    Red-winged Blackbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to male Brewer's Blackbird
    • Red and yellow wing patches
    • Dark eye
    • Not glossy
    • © Laura Erickson, May 2005
  • Adult breeding

    European Starling

    Adult breeding
    • Similar to male Brewer's Blackbird
    • Glossy black overall (may appear purple, green, or blue)
    • Long, thin, yellowish bill
    • Pink legs, dark eye
    • Often with pale spots all over
    • Short tail
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, April 2008

Similar Species

Brewer's Blackbirds are smaller than Common Grackles, with shorter tails and a shorter, smaller bill. Males are glossier than Rusty Blackbirds, and the species' breeding ranges overlap little. Female Rusty Blackbirds have a yellow eye and are grayer than female Brewer's. Immature and winter male Rusty Blackbirds have rich brown markings on the head, wing, and back. Female Red-winged Blackbirds are much streakier than female Brewer's. European Starlings are shorter, squatter, with shorter tails and more slender beaks. Brown-headed Cowbirds have a shorter, more triangular beak and dark eye.

Backyard Tips

Brewer’s Blackbirds readily come to feeders, though they’re a bit clumsy when perching. You’re likely to get the best results by scattering seed on the ground or using an open platform feeder.

Find This Bird

Look for Brewer’s Blackbirds in two places: meandering along open ground, eyes peeled for crumbs, seeds, and insects; and perched up high, particularly on utility lines and in groups in the tops of trees.

Hear sounds and see videos of Brewer's Blackbird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

Get Involved

Check Project FeederWatch results for Brewer’s Blackbird sightings in your area. Then join the project and contribute your own sightings!

eBird needs your sightings – of Brewer’s Blackbirds, their rarer counterpart the Rusty Blackbird, and other birds. Help us understand the status and distribution of birds in North America.