Garden Black Birds
A few days ago, one of my daughters-in-law brought me some lunch, and looking out the window, she saw some blackbirds in my backyard. She said “Daddy, you have a lot of black birds in your backyard. Are they crows?” Smilingly, I called her to the window and said “I don’t think there are any look crows in Houston. If you at them closely these black birds are quite beautiful on their own, and there are quite a few different varieties of black birds. That black bird with a long tail has a shiny blue head and white eyes. The body is somewhat brownish and also shiny, it's beak is black and so are it's feet. That is a Male Grackle. Isn’t it pretty?
FEMALE GRACKLE - Much smaller than the male, brownish in color head and neck does not have the metallic sheen like the male. Eyes are white-yellow.
REDWING BLACKBIRD - Another black bird you see quite commonly here in Houston is the Redwing Blackbird. This bird is jet black and if you look carefully there is a yellow streak across its shoulder. When the bird stretches out its wings, you can see a colorful red and yellow patch at the base of the wings. The red and yellow against a black background makes it a very beautiful bird.
COWBIRDS - Usually along with these black birds is another black bird with a brown colored head and a glossy black body with a greenish iridescence. The eyes are dark, the bill and legs are black. These black birds are not so pretty and they usually stay in flocks. These are the Brown-headed Cowbirds, so named as they used to follow herds of bison and cows. The females are dull brownish throughout with darker wings and tail. The face has a beady eyed look due to dark eyes.
STARLINGS - There is another blackbird seen here in Houston. These birds have a yellow beak , yellow legs and a short tail. They also travel in flocks. They are called Starlings. They like to feed at the Suet feeder. They also travel in flocks. They were initially imported from England in 1890 and hence also called as European Starlings.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE - You see a lot of black birds in the parking lots of supermarkets. They are mostly grackles. Sometimes, you may be lucky to see a few with large fan shaped tails, which are known as the Great-tailed Grackle. Crows and Ravens are much larger than these black birds unlike the crows in Burma which are smaller and about the size of the grackles or maybe slightly larger.
Do you see that Birdhouse Condominium my neighbor has put up next to the fence? That is a Purple Martin bird house and can accommodate 12 families. These small blackbirds do not stay here the whole year round. In Texas, they come around January/February and leave about June. They are the largest swallows in North America. The males are all dark, glossy blue black; females and immatures duller above and grayish below. They do not come to feed at my bird feeders, but instead they eat insects like mosquitoes and catch them on the fly. I have noticed that when they are around, I do not get mosquito bites. They may be noisy in the mornings and at dusk, but it is fun to watch them.
Off hand, you see a lot of black birds and pass them off as scavengers, but if you look at them carefully and learn to appreciate their differences, these garden black birds can be beautiful birds too.