Blackbirds of the Americas

Gordon H. Orians, Author, Gordon H. Crians, Author, Tony Angell, Illustrator University of Washington Press $35 (163p) ISBN 978-0-295-96253-5
Blackbirds, of the family Icteridae, are found only in the Western hemisphere, from Canada to Argentina, in all kinds of habitat. The 94 recognized species include orioles, meadowlarks and boblinks as well as grackles, cowbirds and the tropical oropendolos and caiques. Orians, professor of zoology at the University of Washington, here writes an authoritative and comprehensive account of this family that will interest both professional and amateur ornithologists. He discusses the family's evolution, which is relatively recent (the cowbird is closest to the finch-like ancestor), adaptations, communication, social habits, distribution, parasitism. Blackbirds are omnivorous feeders and have an ability to open their bills forcibly against considerable resistance, which helps in obtaining prey. Comparing the status of various species, Orians finds that natives of the tropics and long-distance migrators are most vulnerable. Angell's 82 black-and-white drawings are superb. (February 20)
Reviewed on: 12/02/1985
Release date: 12/01/1985
Genre: Nonfiction
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