Readers’ wildlife photos

July 10, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today is Sunday, which means we get another themed selection of birds from John Avise. His commentary and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Blackbirds Versus black birds

In ornithological circles, Blackbirds in the New World are members ofthe taxonomic family Icteridae (icterids, for short).  Most of these Blackbirds (upper-case B) have predominantly black plumages, often adorned with confined patches of color.  But things can get confusing because some New World Blackbirds are predominantly bright orange or yellow, for example.  Thus, not all Blackbirds are black birds.

To further complicate matters for neophyte birders, not all black birds (lower-case b) in the New World are Blackbirds (icterids).  This week’s post illustrates the distinction between New World Blackbirds and New World black birds. The take-home message is that a Blackbird is not necessarily a black bird, and vice versa.  All of my photographs were taken in North America.  [And things can get even more complicated when we speak of Old World Blackbirds and Old World black birds, many of which are essentially unrelated to the New World icterids (but that’s a topic for another day).]

Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus (an icterid):

Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus (an icterid):

Boat-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus major (an icterid):

Great-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus (an icterid):

Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula (an icterid):

Brown-headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater (an icterid):

Fish Crow, Corvus ossifragus (not an icterid):

Common Raven, Corvus corax (not an icterid):

American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos (not an icterid):

European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris (not an icterid):

Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens (not an icterid):

Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna (an icterid):

Hooded Oriole, Icterus cucullatus (an icterid):

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus (an icterid):

15 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wow – and I thought I knew what blackbird meant!

    BTW is it just me or is today’s Hili producing errors (iOS, any browser)? Maybe the pic of Mary … Mary Somebody… is too many bytes?…

    1. Yes, I’m also getting errors on the Hili page. Both yesterday and today. Won’t load more than about a screen full (and a bit more)then freezes and try’s to reload, repeat. iPad Air with Safari.

        1. I tried it today and just now , it’s working.

          BTW my browser reports that zero fingerprinting methods/trackers/etc. are active. It was about 36 before.

          The “Post Comment” button tends to disappear – but everyone knows for me, it’s probably a good thing.

  2. It just occurred to me that “blackbirds” as a group should have been a target for today’s
    re-namers/cancellers, as old cartoons usually had crows (black birds) portrayed as lazy and suspect. And as stand-ins for POCs. Glad that didn’t happen.

  3. An excellent batch of black and blackish birds. I’d never seen a Phainopepla- beautiful! It’s like a black Steller’s jay. Neat name too…though I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it correctly. “Fainopepla?”

    BTW, since you’re very good at photographing birds on the wing (though none in this batch) do you use back-button focus? I’m just starting to experiment with it, and so far, so good.

    1. I always just keep my camera on the “sports” dial setting with a fast shutter speed. This seems to work well both for flying and standing birds. And that way, I can spend all of my time stalking birds for good photos, and little or no time on frantically adjusting camera settings for a moving bird.

    1. I use a Canon EOS 20D camera with an adjustable 70-300 mm telephoto lens. Larger (but much heavier) lenses (400 or 500 mm) are preferred by many bird photographers, but my little 300 mm lens is light enough for me to carry even on longer walks, and I don’t need to use a tripod.

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