Nothing speaks of the winter sky quite like a flock of blackbirds flying in unison above a sprawling pasture, field or marsh.
They spiral and bank and funnel, breathing life into a void of leaden gray. It’s a spectacle you won’t observe in any other season.
In the Piedmont, these flocks are often composed of an assortment of common species, not all of which are native or even considered true blackbirds: starlings, robins, brown-headed cowbirds, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds. Sometimes the rusty blackbird, an erratic winter visitor in our region, joins them. In other times of the year – when these very same birds are establishing territory, breeding and raising their young – they tend to be more solitary and competitive, and nest in pairs or loose groups. When winter comes along, they become more cooperative and sociable.