The Bird Book/Blackbirds, Orioles, etc

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Blackbirds, Orioles, etc: Family Icteridae


494. BOBOLINK. Dolichonyx oryzivorus.

Range. Eastern North America, breeding from New Jersey north to Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and west to Utah and Nevada; winters in South America. This black and white bird is well known in the east, where his sweet, wild music, often uttered on the wing, is much admired. He sings all day long during May and June to his Sparrow-like mate, who is sitting on her nest concealed in the meadow grass. They are quite sociable birds and several pairs often nest in the same field, generally a damp meadow; the nests are hoiGrayish white lows in the ground, lined with grass and frequently with the top slightly arched to conceal the eggs, which are grayish white, clouded, spotted and blotched with brownish, gray and lilac; size .84 x .62. They number from four to six and are laid in June.

495. COWBIRD. Molothrus ater ater.

Range. North America from the Atlantic to eastern California, and from New Brunswick and Manitoba southward; winters from the southern half of the United States southward.

These uncivilized members of the bird world build no nests for themselves, but slyly deposit Bobolink



their egg in the nest of some other bird from

the size of a Robin down, probably the greater number being in Warblers .*#?'""**"?"' an( l Sparrows nests; the

/&+.' ^ - eggs are hatched and the

young cared for by the unfortunate birds upon which they are thrust. The eggs are white, spotted and speckled all over, more or

less strongly with brown and yellowish brown;

size .85 x .64.


495a. DWARF COWBIRD. obscurus.

Molothrus atcr



Light blue-green

Range. Southwestern United States Mexico, wintering south of our borders.

This variety is like the last, but slightly smaller. The nesting habits of the two are identical and the eggs are indistinguishable, It is believed that Cowbirds do more damage to the smaller birds than all other dangers combined, as their young being larger and stronger either crowd or smother the other young or else starve them by getting most of the food brought to the nest.

1-96. RED-EYED COWBIRD. Tangariux ceneus involucratus.

Range. Mexico; north in summer to the Lower Rio Grande in Texas.

This parasite is larger than the Cowbird, being 9 inches long, and is glossy black with brassy reflections on the upper and under parts. They are abundant in southern Texas where they deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds, apparently preferring those of Orioles; their eggs are pale bluish green, unmarked; size .90 x .70.


Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. Range. North America west of the Mississippi to eastern California, breeding from the southern parts of the United States north to British Columbia and Hudson Bay and wintering from southern United States downward.

This large handsome Blackbird with bright yellow head and breast is very abundant in some parts of the west, where they nest, in large colonies in sloughs and marshes, being especially abundant in the Dakotas and Manitoba. The nests are made of strips of rushes, skillfully woven together and attached to upright cane near the surface of the water. They lay from four to six eggs having a grayish white ground color, finely specked and spotted with shades of brown and gray; sixe 1.00 x .70, 315

Yellow-beaded Blackbird


498. RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. Agelaius phceniceus phceniceus.

jtiiuish white

Red-winged Blackbird

-**|>*^^^"\ / Range. North America east of the Rockies

  • . ' i. an( j from the southern British Provinces south

ward to the Gulf; winter in southern United States.

These birds are familiar ..

to every frequenter of the country, in their range; too familiar to many, for the enormous flocks do considerable damage to grain fields in the fall. They also do a great amount of good at other

seasons in the destruction of injurious insects and weed seed. They breed from April in the southern parts of their range to May and June in the northern, making their nests of grasses, woven and twisted together and placing them in bushes in swamps or over water, and sometimes on the ground in clumps of grass. Their eggs are from three to five in number, bluish white boldy spotted, clouded or lined with blackish brown and purplish. Size 1.00 x .70. The nests and eggs of the numerous sub-species are all precisely the same as those of this bird, so we will but enumerate the varieties and their range. To identify these varieties other than by their ranges will require micrometer calipers and the services of the men who separated them.

498a. SONORA RED-WING. Agelaius phceniceus sonoriensis. Range. A slightly larger variety found in southern United States.

498b. BAHAMA RED-WING. Agelaius phceniceus bryanti.

Range.-- Bahamas and southern Florida. This species has a slightly longer bill.

498c. FLORIDA RED-WING. Agelaius phceniceus floridanus.

Range. Florida and Gulf coast. A smaller species with a longer bill.

498d. THICK-BILLED RED-WING. Agelaius phceniceus fortis.

Range. Breeds in the interior of British America; in winter south through the Plains to southwestern United States.

498e. SAN DIEGO RED-WING. Agelaius Phceniceus neutralis.

Range. Great Basin between the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas, from British Columbia to Mexico, wintering in the southern parts of its range.

498f. NORTHWESTERN RED-WING. Agelaius phceniceus caurinus. Range. Pacific coast from California to British Columbia.



499- BICOLORED RED-WING. Agelaius gubernator calif ornlcus.

Range. Pacific coast, west of the Sierra Nevadas, from Washington south to Lower California.

The males of this species are distinguished from those of the Red-wings by the absence of light margins to the orange red shoulders. They are fairly abundant in their restricted localities, building their

Dull bluish white nest / in swamps about ponds and streams. The

nests are like those of the Red-wings, and the eggs are similar and with the same great variations in markings, but average a trifle smaller; size .05 x .67.


500. TRICOLORED RED-WING. Agelaius tricolor.

Range. Pacific coast of California and Oregon ; rare east of the Sierra Nevadas.

This species differs from the Red-wing in having the shoulders a much darker red and the median coverts white instead of buffy. Like the last species they have a limited range and are nowhere as common as are the Red-wings in the east. Their nests are like those of the Red-wings and the eggs are not distinguishable in their many variations, but they appear to be more often lined than those of the former.

Dull bluish white

501. MEADOWLARK. Sturnella magna magna.

Range. North America east of the Plains and north to Nova Scotia and Manitoba; winters from New England southward.

This handsome dweller among our fields and meadows is frequently heard giving his high, pleasing, fiute-like whistle with its variations; his beautiful yellow breast with its black crescent is not so frequently seen in life, for they are usually quite shy birds. They artfully conceal their nests on the ground among the tall grass of meadows, arching them over with dead grass. During May or June they lay from four to six white eggs.


speckled over the whole surface with reddish brown and purplish; size 1.10 x .80.

501 a. Rio GRANDE MEADOWLARK. Sturnella magna


Range. A brighter and slightly smaller variety found along the Mexican border. 317


501.1. WESTERN MEADOWLARK. neglecta.


Range. North America west of the Mississippi and from Manitoba and British Columbia southward, its range overlapping that of the eastern Meadowlark in the Mississippi Valley, but the two varieties appear not to intermingle. This variety is paler than the eastern, but the greatest point of difference is in the songs, they being wholly unlike, and that of the western bird much louder, sweeter and more varied than the simple whistle of the eastern form. The nesting habits of both varieties are the same and the eggs indistinguishable.

501c. SOUTHERN MEADOWLARK. magna argutula.


Range. Florida and the Gulf coast.

A very similar bird to the northern form but slightly smaller and darker. There is no difference between the eggs of the two varieties,

Audubon Oriole

503. AUDUBON'S ORIOLE. Icterus melanocephalus auduboni.

Range. Mexico and the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

This large Oriole has a wholly black head, neck, fore breast, tail and wings; it is 9.5 inches in length. They are quite abundant and resident in southern Texas where they build at low elevations in trees, preferably mesquites, making the nests of woven grasses and hanging them from the small twigs of the trees; the nests are more like those of the Orchard Oriole and not long and pensile like those of the Baltimore. The three to five eggs are grayish white, blotched, clouded, spotted or streaked with brownish and purple. Size 1.00 x .70. Data. Brownsville, Texas, April 6, 1897. 5 eggs.

Nest of threads from palmetto leaves, hanging from limb of mesquite, 10 feet above ground in the open woods. Collector, Frank B. Armstrong.




Hooded Oriole

504. SCOTT'S ORIOLE. Icterus parisorum.

Range. Western Mexico north to the adjoining states; north to Nevada.

This handsome black and yellow species does not appear to be abundant in any part of its range. Their nests are swung from the under side of leaves of the yucca palm or from small branches of low trees, and are made of grass and fibres. The eggs are bluish white, specked and blotched chiefly about the large end with blackish brown and lilac gray. Size .95 x .65. Data. Chiricahua Mts., Arizona, June 5, 1900. Nest placed on the under side of a yucca palm leaf, being hung from the spines, about 4 feet from the ground. Altitude 7000 feet. Collector, O. W. Howard.

Bluish white

505. SENNETT'S ORIOLE. Icterus cucullatus sennetti.

Range. Mexico, north in summer to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

This species is orange yellow except for the face, throat, fore back, wings and tail, which are black; the wings are crossed by two white bars. These handsome birds are the most abundant of the Orioles on the Lower Rio Grange, where their pure mellow whistle is heard at frequent intervals throughout the day. They generally build their nests in hanging moss from mesquite trees, turning up at the ends and lining the pocket with moss, or else make a shallow hanging nest of fibres and suspend it from yuccas. During May or June they lay from three to five eggs of a white color, spotted (rarely lined) with purplish brown and gray. Size .85 x .60.


505a. ARIZONA HOODED ORIOLE. Icterus cucullatus nelsoni.

Range. Western Mexico; in summer north to southern Arizona, New Mexico and California.

This variety is like the last but more yellowish. Their nests are made of a wiry grass compactly woven together and partially suspended to mistletoe twigs growing from cottonwood trees; nests of this type are perfectly distinct from those of the preceding, but when they are made of fibre and attached to yuccas, they cannot be distinguished from nests of the former variety. Their eggs are similar to those of the Hooded Oriole, but generally more strongly marked and usually with some zigzag lines. Size .85 x .60.


506. ORCHARD ORIOLE. Icterus spurius.

Range. United States, east of the Plains, breeding from the Gulf to southern New England, and Canada in the interior. Winters beyond our borders.

The adult male of this species is a rich chocolate brown and black, it requiring three years to attain this plumage. They nest commonly about habitations in their range, usually preferring orchard trees for sites. Their nests are skillfully woven baskets of fresh grasses, about as high as wide; they are generally placed in upright forks and well concealed by drooping leaves. They lay from four to six bluish white eggs, spotted and blotched with brown and lavender. Size .80 x .55. Data. Avery's Island, La., May 10, 1896. Nest of grass, lined with thistledown; semipensile in drooping twigs of a willow. Collector, F. A. Mcllhenny.

Bluish white

Arizona Hooded Oriole

Orchard Oriole

507. BALTIMORE ORIOLE. Icterus galbula.

Range.- -North America, east of the Rockies, breeding from southern United

States north to New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

\ This beautiful and well known eastern Oriole

can readily be identified by its orange., flame color and entirely black head. Even better known than the birds, are the pensile nests which retain their positions on the swaying drooping branches all through the winter. Although they build in many other trees, elms seem to be their favorites. Their nests are made of plant fibres and frequently string, and often reach a length of about 10 inches and

about half that in diameter; they are usually attached to drooping branches by the rim so that they rock to and fro, but are sometimes held more firmly in position by having their side bound to a branch. Their eggs, which are laid in May and June, are white, streaked and lined with blackish brown and grayish. Size .90 x .60.



Baltimore Oriole



Rasty Blackbird



508. BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. Icterus bullocki.

Range. North America, west of the Plains and from British Columbia southward, wintering in Mexico.

This handsome species is as abundant in the west ^fT as the Baltimore Oriole is

^ga in the east, and breeds

) throughout its United 1^?' States range. Their nests are similarly made and in similar locations, and the Bluish white eggs are hardly distin guishable from those of the preceding, but the ground color is generally of a pale bluish white tint and the markings are usually finer, the lines running around the eggs and often making a very handsome wreath about the large end. Size of eggs, .94 x .62.

509. RUSTY BLACKBIRD. Euphagus carolinus.

Range. North America east of the Plains, breeding from northern New England and the Adirondacks northward; winters in southern United States.

But few of these birds breed within our borders, the majority of them passing on to the interior of Canada. They generally nest in pairs, or at the most three or four pairs in a locality, building their large substantial nests of moss, twigs and grass, lined with fine green grass; this structure is situated in bushes or low trees in swampy places and at from 3 to 20 feet from the ground. The eggs are laid in May or June; they vary from three to five in number, of a pale bluish green color, spotted, blotched and clouded with shades of brown and gray. Size .96 x .71.

Range. North America west of the Plains, and from British Columbia and Saskatchewan southward.

Bluish green

510. BREWER'S BLACKBIRD. Euphagus cyanocephalus.

Dull white

This western representative of the preceding is of about the same size (10 inches Ipng), but differs in having a purplish head and greenish black body. They nest abund antly throughout their range either in bushes or trees at low elevations or upon the ground; the nests are made of sticks, rootlets and grasses, lined with finer grass and moss, and the eggs, which are very variable, are dull whitish, clouded and blotched with brownish and streaked with blackish. Size 1.00 x .75.



Quiscalus quiscula



Range. Eastern United States from the Gulf to Massachusetts; winters along the Gulf.

This species, which is I i commonly known as Crow

Blackbird, nests in trees

or bushes anywhere in its

range, and on the coast

frequently constructs its

nests among the large

sticks of Ospery nests.

Large pines appear to be

favorite sites for them to locate their large nests of twigs, weeds, grass and trash. They are placed at any elevation from nearly on the ground to 50 feet above it. The eggs range from three to five and are greenish white, splashed, spotted and scrawled with various shades of brown and gray, and with streaks of black. Size 1.10 x .80. The nesting habits and eggs of the sub-species of this Grackle do not differ in any particular. Like those of this variety the eggs show an endless number of patterns of markings.

Dull greenish White

Purple Grackle

Bronzed Grackle

51 la. FLORIDA GRACKLE. Quiscalus quiscula aglceus.

Range. South Atlantic and Gulf States. A smaller variety of the preceding; length about inches. Eggs indistinguishable.

1 1

Quiscalus quiscula

51 Ib. BRONZED GRACKLE. ceneus.

Range. North America east of the Rockies, breeding from the Gulf to Hudson Bay and Labrador. Winters

in the southern parts of the United States. This is the most common and widely distributed of the Crow Blackbirds and is distinguished by the brassy color of the upper parts.

513. BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE. Megaquiscalus major major.

Range. South Atlantic and Gulf States ; north to Virginia.

This handsome bird measures about 16 inches in length, is irridescent with purplish and greenish, and has a very long, graduated and hollowed tail. These Grackles are very abundant residents along the Gulf, breeding in large colonies in swamps, placing their nests of weeds, moss, grasses, etc., in bushes, trees, cans or rushes, but a few inches above the water, while those in trees are sometimes 50 feet above the ground. The eggs are laid in March, April or May, are from three to five in number, and are a dull bluish or grayish white, streaked, lined, clouded and blotched with brown, black and gray; size 1.25 x. 95.


Grayish ^vhite



Megaquiscalus major macrourus.

Range. Mexico to southern and eastern Texas.

This variety is larger than the last (length 18 inches) and the tail is very broad and flat.

Evening Grosbeak

Grayish white

Like the former, they nest in bushes, rushes or trees at any elevation from the ground. The nests are built of the same materials and the eggs are similar to those of the Boat-tailed Grackle, but larger; size 1.28 x .88.

Greenish white