Of the many birds to be found in Maine, blackbirds are often overlooked. But the new world Icteridae family of blackbirds found in the state (and the non-native European starling) are just as fascinating as some of the more iconic species. They are not even always black. And taking the time to learn more about these species can be a rewarding experience.
Even in the same species, you may find significant differences in size and weight. Male and female blackbirds vary in color and size; males can be as much as 60% heavier than females.
Though some birds on this list are considered pests – protecting them and learning more about them can help preserve them and halt declines in their numbers. Read on to learn more about these fascinating birds spotted in Maine and when you might expect to see them.
- Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
- Length: 6.7-9.1 inches (17-23 centimeters)
- Weight: 1.1-2.7 ounces (32-77 grams)
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches (31-40 centimeters)
Red-winged blackbirds are the blackbirds most frequently spotted in Maine. They are easy to identify. Adult males have all-black coloring, except for their reddish-orange wing patches. The females are a streaky brown.
These birds may be spotted in the state year-round, though most members of this species will spend the summer in the state and then migrate south in the winter.
These birds breed here between March and August. The males can be quite aggressive when defending their nest against intruders and have even been known to attack people if they venture too close.
- Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
- Length: 11.0-13.4 inches (28-34 centimeters)
- Weight: 2.6-5.0 ounces (74-142 grams)
- Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 inches (36-46 centimeters)
The Common grackle is a near-threatened species. However, after the Red-winged blackbird, they are the second most commonly spotted blackbirds in Maine during the summer months.
Like the Red-winged blackbird, the Common grackle usually migrates south for the winter months, but some individuals will remain in the state during the coldest part of the year. So you might spot them here year-round. They make their nests high up in conifer trees near water.
These loud birds are taller than the typical blackbird and have longer tails. The males have a glossy plumage that is more iridescent than their female counterparts. They have an iridescent blue head bronze body in the right light.
Though they can be seen in large numbers, we should do all we can for this species, whose numbers, worryingly, have approximately halved since the 1970s. These resourceful blackbirds will visit your backyard feeder and will even chase off other visitors to your backyard.
- Scientific Name: Molothrus ater
- Length: 76.3-8.7 inches (19-22 centimeters)
- Weight: 1.3-1.8 ounces (42-50 grams)
- Wingspan: 14.2 inches (36 centimeters)
Sometimes spotted in Maine, especially during the summer breeding season, these birds typically also spend the warmer months in the state. Most then migrate south for the winter, though a few individuals may remain and be spotted in the state throughout the year.
The Brown-headed cowbird is a chunky blackbird. The males have black bodies and brown heads, while the females are smaller and have a grayish-brown color all over, with slight streaking on the belly.
Interestingly, these birds don’t make their own nests but deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds, tricking other species into raising the baby cowbird to adulthood. What a great way to save energy building nests! Interestingly, the baby will never associate with whatever type of bird raised it.
- Scientific Name: Icterus galbula
- Length: 6.7-7.5 inches (17-19 centimeters)
- Weight: 1.1-1.4 ounces (30-40 grams)
- Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 inches (23-30 centimeters)
The fourth most commonly spotted blackbird in Maine is the Baltimore oriole. Like the birds mentioned above, these birds tend to spend the summer in the state. They are typically seen between May and October high up in deciduous trees. Though a few may remain and be spotted here even through the colder months, most will migrate south.
The males of this blackbird species are black and bright orange, with white markings on their black wings. The females are yellow-brown on top, with a yellow underside and gray-brown wings. These stunning birds are about the size of a robin but with a more delicate and slender frame.
You can attract Baltimore orioles with cut oranges on feeders or hanging from trees.
- Scientific Name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
- Length: 5.9-8.3 inches (15-21 centimeters)
- Weight: 1.0-2.0 ounces (29-56 grams)
- Wingspan: 10.6 inches (27 centimeters)
Bobolinks are spotted in Maine during the May to November breeding season. They usually migrate south for the winter and disappear from birdwatcher’s lists during this time.
The breeding males look rather unusual, with white backs, black undersides, and a bright yellow patch at the back of their heads that resembles hair. The females and non-breeding males in winter plumage are less distinctive but have brown, streaky feathers, dark eye-lines, and stripes on the top of their heads.
To help protect this species, whose numbers have declined dramatically since the 1960s, hold off mowing grassy areas and meadows until they have left.
- Scientific Name: Sturnella magna
- Length: 7.5-10.2 inches (19-26 centimeters)
- Weight: 3.2-5.3 ounces (90-150 grams)
- Wingspan: 13.8-15.8 inches (35-40 centimeters)
Though they are considered a near-threatened species, Eastern Meadowlarks may also be spotted by lucky bird watchers in this state. They breed and nest in Maine from April to July before making their southward migration. However, some may remain and be spotted in the colder months.
These distinctive birds have bright yellow bellies and pale brown backs with black markings. They also have a distinctive black band across their chests. You may hear their melodic flute-like song even if you do not spot them.
- Scientific Name: Euphagus carolinus
- Length: 8.3-9.8 inches (21-25 centimeters)
- Weight: 1.7-2.8 ounces (47-80 grams)
- Wingspan: 14.6 inches (37 centimeters)
This member of the blackbird family is also sometimes spotted in Maine through summer. However, the best times to see these birds in the state are during their spring and fall migrations – from March to April and September to October.
The males have glossy black breeding plumage in summer and are a rusty brown in winter. The females are gray-brown with rusty tinges to their feathers. They also have darker coloration around their eyes and lighter streaks above.
- Scientific Name: Icterus spurius
- Length: 5.9-7.1 inches (15-18 centimeters)
- Weight: 0.6-1.0 ounces (16-28 grams)
- Wingspan: 9.8 inches (25 centimeters)
Though not commonly seen in Maine, Orchard Orioles are regularly spotted here. However, they can only be spotted during the spring and fall migration periods. May is when Maine birdwatchers are most likely to glimpse these more elusive blackbirds in the state.
The males and females of this species look very different from one another. The males have black heads, with reddish bellies. And the females are greenish-yellow, with darker wings crossed by white wing bars. It is the smallest species of the blackbird in North America.
You can attract Orchard orioles to your backyard with platform feeders or backyard feeding stations filled with cut orange slices.
- Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
- Length: 7.9-9.1 inches (20-23 centimeters)
- Weight: 2.1-3.4 ounces (60-96 grams)
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches (31-40 centimeters)
European starlings are not native, but they are now among the most commonly seen songbirds in Maine and many other states and tend to outcompete native birds for space and expensive bird food. This common blackbird can be seen in Maine year-round, and is widely reported on birdwatching lists from the state.
These stocky blackbirds may look almost black from a distance when you spot them flying in large murmurations. But up close, they have iridescent coloration, with splashes of vibrant purple, blue and green.
They are large, aggressive birds and can be a nuisance if their large flock lands in your backyard.
Maine birdwatchers may also spot other blackbirds as accidental or vagrant visitors. The Bullocks oriole, Yellow-headed blackbird, Western meadowlark, Shiny cowbird, Bronzed cowbird, and Brewer’s blackbird have all been sighted in the state.