Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Brewer's Blackbird - Euphagus cyanocephalus
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General Comments The Brewer's Blackbird is an abundant bird of the Western half of the country. It is somewhat migratory, and many birds fly to the southeast, to winter very locally in some Southeastern states. Though it winters somewhat regularly in scattered sites from Georgia westward, in North Carolina there is just one known regular wintering locale, around cattle feedlots at the privately-owned Open Ground Farms in central Carteret. Why the species is regular there, and essentially nowhere else in the state with suitable cattle feedlots, is a mystery. Otherwise, the species is usually seen as single birds amid large flocks of Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and/or Brown-headed Cowbirds, feeding on the ground in plowed fields or near cattle; the great majority of these are from the Coastal Plain. However, because small numbers winter in Georgia and perhaps South Carolina, it is likely that a few routinely occur in migration in the southwestern mountains. This species -- both the male and the female -- is easily overlooked unless seen at close range; counterbalancing this, some published reports are likely to be mis-identifications.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S1N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident at one and possibly two sites, otherwise a sparse winter visitor and transient. Known to winter regularly only in central Carteret (since the winter of 1987-88), where at times more than 10 birds can be seen. Several birds have been seen for the last four winters (Dec 2015 - Feb 2019) at a site in eastern Hyde. Elsewhere, rare in the Tidewater zone -- more likely within a few miles of lakes Mattamuskeet, Phelps, or Pungo; very rare elsewhere. Not expected on coastal islands. Primarily mid-Nov to mid-Feb; early date is 16 Oct and late date is 2 Apr. Peak counts: 125, Pungo Lake, 4 Feb 1991, both males and females seen; 50-65, Open Ground Farms in Carteret, winter 1987-88. Peak count elsewhere: 16, Gum Swamp Road (Hyde), 5 Jan 2019; 10, Gum Swamp Road, 8 Feb 2018.
Piedmont Scarce transient and winter visitor; some published records are certainly of mid-identifications. Mainly late Oct to mid-Feb; early date is 14 Oct and late date is 29 Apr. Peak count: (only) 6, Lake Norman, 21 Dec 1997.
Mountains Scarce transient. Very rare to rare in southern mountain valleys, and casual in the northern half of the province. All reports from Buncombe, Henderson, Macon, and Transylvania, except for single records in Avery, Madison, and Watauga. Scattered from 1 Nov to 16 Apr, but mainly in Nov and Apr. Peak counts: 10, Franklin (Macon), 25 Nov 2014; 9, northern Watauga, 16 Nov 2014; 5, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 29 Nov - 1 Dec 2016; 4, Hooper Lane,10 Nov 2003; 4, Fletcher (Henderson), 14 Mar 2020.
Finding Tips Arrangements to access Open Ground Farms have always been tricky, and this is not a good option. Recently, a small horse pasture southeast of Lake Mattamuskeet has hosted a few individuals for four winters in a row. Otherwise, you must try to find one on your own, and this usually requires much patience pouring over hundreds and hundreds of blackbirds, in dozens of flocks, as they are feeding on the ground. (Attempting to identify one perched in a tree is not feasible; they can be easily confused with other species against the sky or clouds.)
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Attribution LeGrand[2021-09-04], LeGrand[2021-03-07], LeGrand[2020-08-03]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.