For the Birds: Who has black birds? Shoreline has black birds!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Common Raven Photo by Alexandra MacKenzie

By Christine Southwick

When you think of black-colored birds, do you think of Crows and Ravens? Shoreline has both.

Most everyone knows the “I’d rather-hop-than-fly” antics of the road-cleaning American Crow. These black birds “Caw”, have a smooth-looking throat, and squar-ish tail. They are usually seen with several other crows, and roost by the thousands every night at the Community College in Bothell. In the mornings they fly from the roost to their apparently designated foraging locations for that day, before returning each evening for their nightly social exchanges.

American Crow
Photo by Christine Southwick
I have only heard Common Ravens here in Shoreline during spring and fall, but they can be found year round throughout the state. Ravens can weigh four times as much as crows.

They have extra feathers on their throats making their throats look shaggy; have a wedge-shaped tail, and are usually seen with their mate, or solitarily, but not in flocks.

They avoid congested urban areas since they prefer quieter places — coastlines, high cliffs, and tall trees are good places to look/listen for ravens. They can be found eating large road-kill. The most reliable ID for most people is hearing their loud, usually resounding “Gronk”. Crows can’t make that sound. Ravens in flight will soar, whereas crows don’t.

Red-winged Blackbird, male Photo by John Riegsecker
Shoreline does have real Blackbirds —Brewer’s Blackbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbirds are seen in wetlands in the spring. Look/listen for them at Cromwell Park and Echo Lake, our two biggest cattail wetlands.

Paramount Open Space and Ronald Bog, or any other wild damp area could have Red-winged Blackbirds. The males puff up their red and yellow epaulets to impress the dark brown-streaked females and warn away other male Red-winged Blackbirds.

Brewer's Blackbird, male by Stephanie Colony
Brewer’s Blackbirds are here all year long. I usually notice them in the winter gleaning who-knows-what from the asphalt of local parking lots. They eat insects, grains and seeds.

Our local population increases in the winter with Canadian populations flying westward to enjoy our milder winter climate. The males are the handsome ones with glossy feathers reflecting black, midnight-blue, purple, and greens.

They have bright yellow eyes and often have a pugnacious attitude. Being comfortable around humans, they will turn and stare at you, but they are not aggressive. The females are gray-brown with a dark tint, have dark eyes, and are often under-appreciated next to those handsome males.


afrugalspinster May 8, 2017 at 8:32 PM  

Shoreline is SOUTH of Canada not west. I'm not complaining just pointing out an error in an otherwise informative story. Thank you Christine.

Christine Southwick,  May 9, 2017 at 7:18 AM  

Brewer's Blackbirds from eastern British Columbia and Alberta will often fly westward (staying in Canada) and then southward to reach our milder winter climates.
Christine Southwick

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