By Lou Jonas
It's amazing how a Brewer's blackbird can carry three or four cabbage worms, and another insect or two, and still do an effective job of scolding an animal which is somewhere near its nest.
The nest is usually well-protected by thorns, but both male and female maintain a day-long sentry duty, and they are aggressive and active enough to put sparrow hawks and magpies to flight.
The gardener who is fortunate enough to have one or two pairs of Brewer's blackbirds nesting near his garden realizes how worthwhile it is to plant rosebushes and gooseberries for use as nesting sites. The vegetables don't begin to suffer much from insects until the young birds have matured and the family has left to take up a life of foraging in hayfields.
(Drawing by AnnaMarie Graham)
A recent issue of the Montana Farmer-Stockman reported a survey of blackbirds and their foods in Winnipeg, Canada, which revealed that drop-damaging insects formed the greater part of the diet, including such as grasshoppers, beet webworms, pea and grain aphids.
The white and glossy black color of the male, along with a fairly long tail, are good clues for field identification. In strong light there are purplish reflections on the head. The song of the male is rather quiet and a little wheezy, but it comes as a welcome relief from the normal sounds of a Montana winter, such as the rattle of sleet on the window and the whining of the cold east wind.
This blackbird is quite sociable to its kind. Nests may be at least as close as five yard, and though females may outnumber males, seldom are there any Brewster spinsters. The male is a willing polygamist and may maintain more than one nest in his territory.
The family dog finds life more peaceful and quiet when the young have become independent. Then the parents lose their suspicious and aggressive attitude. When they have forsaken their nesting area for another year, the gardener feels sort of lonely and neglected.