Last week while we were heading for Brazos Bend, we came across a stunning sight in a farmer's fields near George Ranch. In the fields there were literally thousands of blackbirds with a total of over 10,000 very probable. These blackbirds are wintering here in Texas and have found plenty of food in the form of grain in these fields.
The species in the largest numbers were Red-winged Blackbirds, numbering an estimated 7,000 and were followed by Brown-headed Cowbird at about 3,000. There were also many starlings along with some Common and Great-tailed Grackles thrown into the mix.
Unfortunately for the blackbirds, many raptors had found this feeding bonanza as well and had shown up, not to feed on the grain but to feed on the blackbirds. There were more than 20 raptors in a space of about 500 sq. yards
About 10 Caracaras, 1 Harrier, many Red-tailed Hawks, several White-tailed Hawks and some Turkey Vultures were hanging around, waiting for the right moment to attack. The blackbirds were very wary and anytime a raptor entered their midst, thousands of the blackbirds would rise up and fly off all at the same time, whirling and twirling in an attempt to avoid capture.
We saw evidence that the raptors were eating well as one of the White-tailed Hawks, an immature, had a very full crop, meaning that it has had a lot to eat. Unfortunately, I didn't get a decent shot of the White-tailed.
Below is a typical winter grassland scene in Texas; a Harrier, blackbirds, hay bales and caracaras.