From the coastal plains to the mountains inland, Maryland offers plenty of birdwatching opportunities. The blackbirds in Maryland are just some of the species to look out for in this state.
The new world blackbirds in the Icteridae blackbird family are often overlooked by birdwatchers. But these black songbird species, along with the non-native European starling, are more interesting birds than you might think.
Read on to learn a little more about the blackbirds of Maryland, and when you might spot them throughout the state.
- Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
- Length: 7.9 – 9.1 in (20 – 23 cm)
- Weight: 2.1 – 3.4 oz (60 – 96 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2 – 15.8 in (31 – 40 cm)
This first bird on the list is a non-native, introduced bird species of European blackbird. But it is now one of the most common songbirds spotted in the state.
They are spotted only slightly more frequently in summer but can be seen here throughout the year.
Though these birds, with their iridescent plumage, are often considered a pest, watching their large murmurations, as huge flocks create sweeping patterns across the sky, truly is an amazing wildlife spectacle.
- Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
- Length: 6.7 – 9.1 in (17 – 23 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 – 2.7 oz (32 – 77 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2 – 15.8 in (31 – 40 cm)
Of the native species of blackbird found in Maryland, the red-winged blackbird, a medium-sized blackbird, is the most common blackbird species to spot over the summer months.
It is also the second most common species of blackbird spotted over the winter months.
They will typically remain in most of the state year-round, though are most visible during their mating period when the males can be rather aggressive in defending their territory. In winter, they can also be seen gathering in large numbers to roost.
The adult males are black with red-orange coloration on their winds. The female red-winged blackbirds are brown, with streaks.
- Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
- Length: 11.0 – 13.4 in (28 – 34 cm)
- Weight: 2.6 – 5.0 oz (74 – 142 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2 – 18.1 in (36 – 46 cm)
Though they are near-threatened as a species, Common grackles are the second most common blackbird spotted in Maryland over the summer months and are the third most common during the winter months.
They are seen more frequently during the summer because, though some remain in the state year-round, many migrate south for the winter.
Sadly though they can still sometimes be seen in large numbers, the common grackle has had a precipitous drop in its population numbers since the 1970s.
Though often found in mixed groups with other blackbirds, these birds can be identified by the fact that they are taller, with somewhat longer tails than other species.
- Scientific Name: Molothrus ater
- Length: 76.3 – 8.7 in (19 – 22 cm)
- Weight: 1.3 – 1.8 oz (42 – 50 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)
The brown-headed cowbird is also fairly commonly spotted in Maryland. You are most likely to see them here between February and August.
Though some remain in the state year-round, most migrate south for the winter months.
These birds spend their breeding season in the state, but they don’t make their nests. Rather, they lay their eggs in the nests of other species, and have other species do the hard work of rearing their chicks.
The males have black bodies and brown heads, while the female cowbirds are a lighter, streaky, brownish-gray all over
- Scientific Name: Icterus galbula
- Length: 6.7 – 7.5 in (17 – 19 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 – 1.4 oz (30 – 40 g)
- Wingspan: 9.1 – 11.8 in (23 – 30 cm)
Rarely remaining in Maryland in the winter, Baltimore orioles are sometimes seen even during the coldest months.
Most, however, will be spotted between April and October. Then most of the birds of this species will depart for warmer locations to the south where they will overwinter before returning in spring.
The size of the robin, but slimmer, the females are brownish-yellow, with yellow patches on their bellies. The males look very different and are bright orange and black, with white bars on their black wings.
- Scientific Name: Icterus spurius
- Length: 5.9 – 7.1 in (15 – 18 cm)
- Weight: 0.6 – 1.0 oz (16 – 28 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)
Orchard Orioles may begin to arrive in Maryland in April, but most arrive in the state in May. They breed and nest in the state over the summer months. Some may remain in the state as late as November.
But most will depart from August. So you stand the best chance of seeing these birds here between May and August.
The females are greenish-yellow in coloration, while the males look markedly different, with black-colored heads and backs and reddish bellies. These are the smallest blackbirds to be seen in North America.
Place nectar-feeders for hummingbirds and his species will benefit too.
- Scientific Name: Sturnella magna
- Length: 7.5 – 10.2 in (19 – 26 cm)
- Weight: 3.2 – 5.3 oz (90 – 150 g)
- Wingspan: 13.8 – 15.8 in (35 – 40 cm)
Though sadly this is a near-threatened species, the Eastern Meadowlark can be seen in Maryland by lucky birdwatchers throughout the year.
They are recorded by a small percentage of birdwatchers in the state in summer, and by an even smaller percentage in winter.
You may be more likely to hear than to see this elusive species, so listen out for their melodic, flute-like song. These birds have over a hundred different tunes to sing.
Pale brown with black marks on their backs, with bright yellow bellies, these birds are also identified by notable black bands across their chests.
- Scientific Name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
- Length: 5.9 – 8.3 in (15 – 21 cm)
- Weight: 1.0 – 2.0 oz (29 – 56 g)
- Wingspan: 10.6 in (27 cm)
Bobolinks are not residents in Maryland, but can sometimes be spotted during the spring and fall migrations.
It is most common to see them in the state during the fall migration in September, as they travel south from their breeding grounds to wintering grounds in Southern South America.
The breeding males are an astonishing sight, with their striking yellow ‘hair’, black bellies, and white backs.
But the brown-streaked females and non-breeding males with their dark eye-lines and stripes on their crowns are more likely to be seen by Maryland birdwatchers.
- Scientific Name: Quiscalus major
- Length: 10.2 – 14.6 in (26 – 37 cm)
- Weight: 3.3 – 8.4 oz (93 – 239 g)
- Wingspan: 15.3 – 19.7 in (39 – 50 cm)
Though they are certainly not a common species of the blackbird in the state, Boat-tailed grackles can be spotted in the south of the state year-round, especially around the southern stretches of the coast.
The males are large and glossy black, with long legs, pointed bills, and long tails. The females are brown and just half their size.
- Scientific Name: Euphagus carolinus
- Length: 8.3 – 9.8 in (21 – 25 cm)
- Weight: 1.7 – 2.8 oz (47 – 80 g)
- Wingspan: 14.6 in (37 cm)
A vulnerable species, the rusty blackbird can be spotted in Maryland during the winter months. These birds typically start to arrive in September, and some will stay until May.
But some will continue onwards, passing through the state only on spring and fall migrations.
So the best times to see these blackbirds in Maryland is in March/ April or November/ December, during the migration periods. When they are en route to boreal forests further north or heading south to their wintering grounds.
In winter, the males have a rusty appearance, having shed their glossy black summer plumage. The females are gray-brown, streaky, with dark eye rings and a lighter streak above.
The above blackbirds are those that you are most likely to encounter in Maryland.
However, some other vagrants or accidental species, such as the yellow-headed blackbird, shiny cowbird, Brewer’s blackbird, Bullock’s oriole, and western oriole have also occasionally been glimpsed in this state.