Blackbirds and Orioles: The Icterids
Neotropical migrants, they winter in the warmer latitudes around the equator and migrate north for breeding season. Approximately one fifth or twenty of the one hundred icterid species inhabit North American territory during part of the year.
Common Icterid physical traits run superficial, at best. Most are adaptable birds, fond of residential that provide adequate food, water and shelter.
Their diets span the basic insects, seeds and fruit spectrum.
Types of Birds
Icterids range in color from the predominantly black and dark feathered blackbirds and grackles, to the brightly feathered orioles.
Icterids also tend to prefer different and breeding areas. Orioles, for example, generally prefer forest habitats, while blackbirds generally prefer wetlands and marsh habitats.
The song of the Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) greets residents of the central and western grasslands each spring.
Their colorful appearance and cheerful songs inspired residents of six states, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming, to designate it as the official state bird.
Males and females look similar, both having a yellow feathers across the breast marked with a dark "V" patch.
Meadowlarks are ground nesters. Males secure a territory, and both participate in rearing the young.
Because their diet consists mostly of insect pests such as caterpillars and grasshoppers, farmers welcome their presence.
Cowbirds receive most attention for being brood parasites. Pairs move about their range during breeding season with females laying eggs in host nests.
Most cowbirds migrate short to medium distances between winter resting and summer breeding grounds.
Red-winged blackbirds, the most common member of the Icterid family, also rank as one of the most common birds in the United States.
Males are easily identified by their black feathers, highlighted by a splash of red in the wings. Females have brown feathers and streaks on the breast.
© 2005-2013 Patricia A. Michaels