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Brewer's vs. Rusty habitats

I've birded North Carolina for 35 years and have seen Brewer's
Blackbirds only twice! It is a very rare bird here. Rusty Blackbird is
uncommon to locally fairly common.  I saw Brewer's about 4-5 times in
the Clemson area, in only 8-9 years there, so the species is more
numerous in GA and the extreme western parts of the Carolinas than

Brewer's: I've seen all but one in cattle pastures or cattle feedlots.
Basically, this is the same habitat where one would expect large flocks
of cowbirds. I have seen one in a flock of other blackbirds in a plowed
field. This is secondary habitat, and most of us checking those large
blackbird flocks in the plowed fields come up empty, though the
occasional Yellow-headed Blackbird does show up there.

Rusty: They can occur about anywhere, but they favor areas near water. I
often see them in swampy woods, in the treetops, or feeding on the
ground. I've seen them in feedlots also, but especially in muddy areas
or closer to trees. They can feed on the ground in residential areas, as
well. They often feed on berries of hollies, etc., feeding with robins
and waxwings. They often feed on mudflats inland, around lakes. Thus,
their primary habitat would be swampy woods, but they can occur in a
wide variety of places.

Over the years, Brewer's have been reported on quite a few occasions in
the Triangle area, especially on the Chapel Hill bird count. I would
personally question most of those reports. I carefully check the flocks
of blackbirds, especially cowbirds at the NCSU dairy farm south of
Raleigh quite a bit, and I still have never seen a Brewer's there, or
anywhere else in Wake County or the Triangle area.  My two NC sightings
were the large flock that wintered at the Open Grounds Farm, around
cattle feedlots, in Carteret County, and one in Tyrrell County on a CBC
Field Trip, in a plowed field.  Certainly, I could overlook a Brewer's
in a flock of 1000 grackles and cowbirds, but still ---, in 35 years

Thus, until proven otherwise, birds in yards and around feeders in NC
are Rusty Blackbirds.  Brewer's like wide open spaces, generally far
from trees. I've never heard of a Brewer's in a yard in the Carolinas,
but I suppose it could happen, if the yard is full of cattle.

Harry LeGrand

Harry E. LeGrand, Jr.
N.C. Natural Heritage Program
Division of Parks and Recreation
1615 MSC
Raleigh, NC 27699-1615

Office: (919) 715-8687
Home: (919) 832-3202
FAX: (919) 715-3085
e-mail: harry.legrand@ncmail.net