We did the Top 10 Black Birds, and though how about doing Top 10 Blackbirds too? The blackbird family consists of 25 species, including meadowlarks and orioles.
Here is our Top 10, in no particular order:
1. Red-winged Blackbird – Abundant, fierce, and loud would be a decent description for this blackbird. They are everywhere in open areas and if you stray too close, you might get a peck on the head! (Veery has had a dive-bombing incident before.) The males and females are both beautiful, but they look nothing alike.
2. Bobolink – One of the coolest things about a Bobolink is their metallic, jangly flight song. We can see the Bobolink in Winnebago County, but Horicon Marsh’s Bud Cook Nature Trail is a consistent place to find this great-sounding bird.
The Bobolink is an extraordinary migrant, traveling to south of the equator each autumn and making a round-trip of approximately 20,000 kilometers (12,500 mi). One female, known to be at least 9 years old, presumably made this trip annually, a total distance equal to traveling 4.5 times around the earth at the equator! – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
3. Baltimore Oriole – We always anticipate the return of the Baltimore Oriole in the spring. Since it nests at the edges of woodlands, it is common in urban parks and easy to find in its range, making it a kid-friendly bird to spot.
4. Yellow-headed Blackbird – Although some consider the Yellow-headed Blackbird to have the worst song, we think it is beautiful, perhaps because they are not so abundant in our area. Horicon Marsh is our favorite place to search for the Yellow-headed Blackbird.
5. Altamira Oriole – This guy is almost all Mexico and Central America. The range bites a small part of Texas, where the photo (below) was taken. Like the Baltimore Oriole, it also weaves a nest, the longest of any other North American bird!
6. Common Grackle – This bird has benefited from human expansion, lives well with people, and is quite beautiful.
The Common Grackle commonly engages in anting, allowing ants to crawl on its body and secrete formic acid, possibly to rid the body of parasites. In addition to ants, it has been seen using walnut juice, lemons and limes, marigold blossoms, choke cherries, and mothballs in a similar fashion. – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
7. Brown-headed Cowbird – A native parasitic bird, the Brown-headed Cowbird is not so well liked by many birders. This bird takes advantage of open and disturbed areas and thrive. It has been especially bad for rare birds such as the Kirtland’s Warbler.
Female Brown-headed Cowbird
8. Scott’s Oriole – This blackbird is found in the southwestern part of the United States and in Mexico. It is seen where Yucca plants are found, using it for food and shelter. In this area, it is the first bird to start singing in the morning and sings all day.
9. Rusty Blackbird – This bird is hard to find, usually seen with other blackbirds. It is in a rapid decline, but the reasons are unknown. We usually see these birds in northern Wisconsin where we have family.
The decline of Rusty Blackbirds is one of the most severe population crashes of any North American bird species, yet the causes largely remain a mystery. Little is known about the birds’ biology, ecological requirements and other characteristics. “Rusties” are very shy birds that fear new or strange phenomena. This, combined with the fact that they breed in northern boreal wetlands and winter in certain swamps in the southeastern U.S., makes Rusty Blackbirds difficult to study and capture. – Cape Romain Bird Observatory
10. Eastern Meadowlark – We hear one of these all winter long (from a European Starling), but we still look forward to their arrival every spring. Sadly, habitat loss is causing a tremendous decline in this species.