Blackbirds and Orioles Family


The Icterids are a group of small to medium, often colourful songbirds. Most species have black as a predominant plumage colour, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. This group includes the blackbirds, bobolink, meadowlarks, grackles, and cowbirds.

They inhabit a range of habitats, including scrub, swamp, forest, and savannah. The species that nest in the United States and Canada move south into Mexico and Central America for the winter.

Icterids are variable in size, and often display considerable sexual dimorphism. For example, the male Great-tailed Grackle is 60% heavier than the female.

One of the more unique morphological adaptations shared by the icterids is gaping, where the skull is configured to allow them open their bills strongly rather than passively, allowing them to force open gaps to obtain otherwise hidden food.

Icterids have adapted to taking a wide range of foods. Some use their gaping motion to open the skins of fruit to obtain the soft insides, and have long bills adapted to the process. Others like cowbirds and the Bobolink have shorter stubbier bills for crushing seeds.