Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

Brewer's Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

Length: 9 to 10 inches Wingspan: 14 to 16 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Glossy black with whitish eyes (male), shorter tail than Common Grackle

Brewer's Blackbird - Euphagus cyanocephalusThe Brewer's Blackbird is a common sight in the open country of the western U.S., although it has also expanded its range into the Great Lakes area.  As with the Common Grackle, they have become accustomed to a human presence, and are a common sight in residential areas. In South Dakota, they are migrants throughout the state, with summer breeding occurring primarily in the far western edge of the state. However, given the proximity of the breeding range just north of South Dakota, they can also sometimes be found as breeders in the northeastern corner of the state.

Brewer's Blackbirds will often form mixed blackbird flocks in migration through the state. See the "similar species" section below for other blackbird species that may be confused with the Brewer's Blackbird.


Can be found in a variety of open to semi-open habitats, including shrubby fields, riparian areas, farmland, shrubby grasslands, woodland edges, and even along the coastline.


Brewer's Blackbirds feed on a wide variety of insects and spiders, as well as consuming a large amount of seeds and waste grain.  Will also feed on snails and small crustaceans, and on occasion, has been known to feed on small young birds or other very small vertebrates.


Primarily forages by walking along the ground.  Will occasionally wade in shallow water, and also will capture flying insects in mid-air.  Gregarious outside of the breeding season, often forming large winter flocks.


June and July. Brewer's Blackbirds are typically colonial nesters, without a great deal of fidelity to colony sites from previous years. Once a handful of Brewer's Blackbirds start building nests in a territory, others often follow, filling up whatever suitable nesting site may be available. Nesting typically occurs in shrubby areas or forest edges near lake shores and rivers, but can occur in a variety of habitats. The nest of a Brewer's Blackbird is a cup, built by the female using grasses, weed stems, twigs, hair, or other available material, sometimes with mud used as a binding agent. The female lays between 3 and 6 eggs, and she alone incubates them. Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days, with young fledging from the nest 12 to 15 days after hatching.


The typical song of a Brewer's Blackbird is a short, squeaky t-seep. They also have multiple perfunctory calls, including a tchuk and a harsher, squeakier call given in alarm.


Summers throughout much of the western U.S., western Canada, and the Great Lakes area.  Winters in the southern half of the U.S. and southward.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Brewer's Blackbird sightings

Similar Species:

Brewer's Blackbirds could be confused with several different "blackbird" species, including multiple species they are sometimes found in conjunction with. Here are the species most likely to be confused with a Brewer's Blackbird:

Rusty Blackbird - Euphagus carolinus Common Grackle 14 - Quiscalus quiscula Common Grackle 6 - Quiscalus quiscula Brown-headed Cowbird 8 - Molothrus ater
Rusty Blackbird Common Grackle Common Grackle Brown-headed Cowbird

Conservation Status: 

Systematic surveys in the past several decades have indicated very modest declines in overall populations. However, they are still found across a very broad geographic area, and are common in parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Brewer's Blackbird to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

December 18th, 2008 - San Francisco, California - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Brewer's Blackbird photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Brewer's Blackbird - Species Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the far western part of the state, rare in the northeast.  Locally common migrant. 

Additional Brewer's Blackbird Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Brewer's Blackbird 1 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 2 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 3 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 4 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 5 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 6 - Euphagus cyanocephalusBrewer's Blackbird 7 - Euphagus cyanocephalus