Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
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In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)


Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
(Artwork - 126)
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

This is number three of the four species of New World blackbirds (family Icteridae, collectively called "Icterids") found in Ontario that I did as vignettes in one painting, a type of painting I call a composite painting. They are based on an older style of bird art that had its heyday in the first half or so of the 20th century, when books about birds of specific regions were being published, including "state books" featuring birds of a given U.S. state. There isn't all that much market for them, I just enjoy doing them.

This shows a species of bird that is extremely abundant throughout the western two thirds of North America, reaching its easternmost regular breeding range in my province of Ontario. They migrate south from the northern reaches of this range, deep into the southern U.S. and Mexico (but as far north as Canada's west coast…the last one I saw was on Vancouver Island, in winter).

They are very similar in appearance to the Rusty Blackbird, which I posted a few weeks ago, but the black males are much glossier and iridescent, tend to have a more upright posture, more grackle-like, and indeed, used to be called "Brewer's grackle". The female is more smoky grey than the corresponding plumage of the Rusty, and has dark, not light-coloured, eyes. They lack the overall "rusty" look of the Rusty Blackbird, and are different in behaviour, being more birds of open country, often becoming very acclimatized to people and forming large flocks. I recall my delight at an outdoor café in San Diego when Brewer's Blackbirds, rarely seen where I live, swarmed all over me and my table, looking for scraps of food and showing no fear of people, You'd never see that with the Rusty Blackbirds.

Like quite a few other Icterids, they nest in colonies. They lay from 4 to 7 eggs (usually 5). The lady builds the nest and incubates the eggs, but the male will pitch in with feeding the babies.

And here’s a bit of ornithological trivia, in part kindly provided by my appropriately named friend, Dr. A. D. (David) Brewer, author of various books and papers on birds, for which some I’ve had the privilege of providing artwork. The early American ornithologist, Dr Thomas Brewer (1814 – 1880), after whom the bird was named, was the son of one of the participants in the Boston Tea Party. He was thoroughly in favour of introducing the House Sparrow, native to Eurasia, to North America. He was described by the famous pioneering American ornithologist, Elliot Coues (1842 – 1899), as "that cantankerous old ass Brewer". Coues detested the idea of having the House Sparrow spread through America. In the event, it is now an ubiquitous species (still hated by many among whom I am not one…I would oppose introducing them in the first place, yes, but they’re here now and I quite admire them) although Brewer died before the species was well established, but it is here to stay. Brewer (Thomas, not David) was friends with bird artist John James Audubon (1785 – 1851) who named the blackbird after him! He also named a duck after Brewer, but alas, Audubon’s painting of the “species”, also called a Bemaculated Duck, is so accurate that we know it was actually a hybrid between two common species, the Mallard and the Gadwall.

The painting is approximately life size, in acrylics on compressed hardboard.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
See his website: http://barrykentmackay.ca/

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