The red-winged blackbird, scientific name Agelaius phoeniceus is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae present in most of North America and far of Central America. In this article, I am going to talk about the Red-winged Blackbird female, sound, call, facts, habitat, migration, behavior, nest, diet, etc.
Red-winged Blackbird profile
A well-recognized harbinger of spring, the Red-winged Blackbird is a welcome sight, with the males arriving in massive flocks to ascertain territories before the females arrive.
Arthur Bent wrote about their arrival within the Smithsonian Institution’s bulletin in 1958: “A flock of about fifteen redwings, adult males… arose from the same field and circled about, wheeling with better precision than the best of trained soldiers, their jet black uniforms and scarlet epaulets flashing in the sunlight as they turned.
All their movements seemed to be governed by the same impulse, instantly obeyed, as they swooped down upon a small apple tree and alighted with every head pointing toward the wind.
Our approach started them off again toward some swampy woods, where they scattered and alighted among the tops of the taller trees.”
It breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala, with remoted populations in western El Salvador, northwestern Honduras, and northwestern Costa Rica.
It might winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia, however, northern populations are usually migratory, shifting south to Mexico and the southern United States.
Claims have been made that it’s the most considerable residing land bird in North America, as bird-counting censuses of wintering red-winged blackbirds generally present that unfastened flocks can quantity in extra of a million birds per flock and the complete variety of breeding pairs throughout North and Central America might exceed 250 million in peak years.
It additionally ranks among the many best-studied wild bird species on the earth. The red-winged blackbird is sexually dimorphic; the male is all black with a red shoulder and yellow wing bar, whereas the feminine is a nondescript darkish brown. Seeds and bugs make up the majority of the red-winged blackbird’s weight loss program.
Red-winged Blackbird Description
The frequent name for the red-winged blackbird is taken from the primarily black grownup male’s distinctive red shoulder patches, or epaulets, that are seen when the bird is flying or displaying. At relaxation, the male additionally reveals a pale yellow wingbar.
The spots of males lower than one-year-old, usually subordinate, are smaller and more orange than these of adults. The feminine is blackish-brown and paler beneath.
The feminine is smaller than the male, at 17–18 cm (6.7–7.1 in) long and weighing 41.5 g (1.46 oz), towards his size of 22–24 cm (8.7–9.Four in) and weight of 64 g (2.3 oz). The smallest females might weigh as little as 29 g (1.0 oz) whereas the biggest males can weigh as much as 82 g (2.9 oz).
Each wing can range from 8.1–14.4 cm (3.2–5.7 in), the tail measures 6.1–10.9 cm (2.4–4.3 in), the culmen measures 1.3–3.2 cm (0.51–1.26 in) and the tarsus measures 2.1 cm (0.83 in).
The higher components of the feminine are brown, whereas the decrease components are lined by an intensely white and darkish veining; additionally presents a whitish superciliary checklist.
Females exhibit a year or salmon pink stain on the shoulders and a transparent pink coloration on the face and beneath this, whereas older ones present a stain normally more crimson on the shoulders and darkish pink hue on and below the face.
Observations in females in captivity point out that small quantities of yellow pigment are current on the shoulders of those after leaving the nest, that the focus of the pigment will increase with the first winter plumage after the change of the feathers.
The passage from yellow to orange usually takes place within the second summer season with the acquisition of the second winter plumage, after which no additional adjustments in feather coloration happen.
The colored space on the wing will increase in surface with the age of the feminine and varies in depth from brown to a vivid red-orange just like that of the males of their first year.
Young birds resemble the feminine, however are paler beneath and have buff feather fringes. Both sexes have a sharply pointed bill. The tail is of medium size and is rounded.
The eyes, bill, and toes are all black. Unlike most North American passerines, which develop the grownup plumage of their first year of life, in order that the one-year-old and the oldest particular person are indistinguishable within the breeding season, the sergeant thrush doesn’t.
It acquires till after the breeding season of the year following its delivery when it’s between 13 and fifteen months of age. Young males undergo a transition stage wherein the wing spots have an orange coloration before buying probably the most intense tone typical of adults.
The male measures between 22 and 24 cm in size, whereas the feminine, 17 or 18 cm.
Its wingspan is between 31 and 40 cm roughly.
Both the height male and the legs, the claws, and the eyes are black; within the feminine beak is darkish brown and clear within the higher half on the backside, and the tail is medium in size and rounded.
As in different species polygynous exists, the red-winged blackbird is appreciable sexual dimorphism each in plumage and size, males weighing between 65 and 80g the females about 35g.
Males are 50% heavier than females, 20% bigger in their linear dimensions, and 20% bigger in comparison with the size of their wings.
The pattern in direction of higher dimorphism within the size of non-monogamous ichterid species signifies that the bigger size of males has advanced as a result of sexual choice.
The male is unmistakable besides within the far west of the US, the place the tricolored blackbird happens.
Males of that species have a darker red epaulet edged with white, not yellow. Females of tricolored, bicolored, red-shouldered, and red-winged blackbirds will be troublesome to determine in areas the place more than one type happens.
In-flight, when the sphere marks will not be simply seen, red-winged will be distinguished from much less carefully associated Icterids similar to frequent grackle and brown-headed cowbird by its totally different silhouette and undulating flight.
Red-winged Blackbird Vocalizations
The calls of the red-winged blackbird are a throaty test and an excessive slurred whistle, terrr-eeee.
The male’s music, accompanied by a display of his red shoulder patches, is a scratchy oak-a-lee, besides that in lots of western birds, together with bicolored blackbirds, it’s ooPREEEEEom
The feminine additionally sings, usually a scolding chatter chit chit chit chit chit chit cheer teer teer teerr.
Distribution and habitat
The red-winged blackbird is broadly unfolded all through North America, besides within the arid desert, excessive mountain ranges, and arctic or dense afforestation areas.
It breeds from central-eastern Alaska and Yukon within the northwest, and Newfoundland within the northeast, to northern Costa Rica within the south, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Northern populations migrate to the southern United States, however, people who breed there, in Mexico, and in Central America are sedentary.
Red-winged blackbirds within the northern reaches of the range are migratory, spending winters within the southern United States and Central America.
Migration begins in September or October, however sometimes as early as August. In western and Central America, populations are usually non-migratory.
The red-winged blackbird inhabits open grassy areas. It usually prefers wetlands and inhabits each freshwater and saltwater marshes, notably if cattail is current.
It can be present in dry upland areas, the place it inhabits meadows, prairies, and old fields. In a big part of its distribution space, it constitutes probably the most considerable passerine bird within the swamps wherein it nests.
It can be current in areas without a lot of water, the place it inhabits open fields – typically agricultural areas – and sparse deciduous forests.
In the winter of 1975-1976, close to Milan (western Tennessee), red-winged blackbirds have been noticed resting in a blended roost that got here to deal with 11 million people in January and early February in a plantation of 4.5 hectares of yellow pine (Pinus taeda) with little undergrowth was seen in soybean fields through the day, being that these constituted solely 21% of the habitat within the space and that the opposite bird species current within the roost weren’t generally noticed in these fields.
They have been additionally frequent in cornfields. the presence of the bird in feedlots has elevated as winter progressed, however, accounting for lower than 5% of the ichterids and starlings recorded in each feedlot of cows and pigs, they have been a lot rarer there than the Brown-headed cowbird, Common grackle, and Common starling.
Red-winged Blackbird Behavior
The “perched display”, with wings held away from the body, is an agonistic habit of the red-winged blackbird.
The red-winged blackbird is territorial, polygynous, gregarious, and a short-distance migratory bird. Its means of flying is attributed, with fast wing flaps punctuated by temporary durations of gliding flight.
The habits of males make their presence simply perceived: they perch in excessive locations similar to bushes, bushes, fences, phone traces, and so forth. Females have a tendency to remain low, prowling by the vegetation and constructing their nests.
They will be present in residence gardens, notably throughout their migration if seeds have been scattered on the bottom. The forest curtains function as a resting place throughout the day.
For a number of weeks after their first look in early spring, sergeant thrushes are usually seen in flocks made up completely of males. During these days, they’re seldom seen at their breeding websites, besides early morning and late afternoon.
In a lot of the remaining hours of the day, they frequent open and sometimes elevated agricultural land, the place they feed primarily on grain stubble and grassy fields.
When disturbed whereas consuming, they fly to the closest deciduous bushes, and instantly after touchdown, they start to sing.
Red-winged Blackbird Food
The red-winged blackbird is omnivorous. It feeds totally on plant supplies, together with seeds from weeds and waste grain similar to corn and rice, however, a few quarters of its weight loss program consists of bugs and different small animals, and significantly more so through the breeding season.
It prefers bugs, similar to dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, and flies, but additionally consumes snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders, mollusks.
The red-winged blackbird forages for bugs by choosing them from crops, or by catching them in flight. Sometimes obtained exploring the premise of aquatic crops with a small peak, opening holes to succeed in bugs hidden inside.
Aquatic bugs, notably odonates rising, are of nice significance within the weight loss program of Sergeant thrushes that breed in swamps.
These birds usually seize the odonates when the larvae climb up the stem of a plant from the water, eliminate their exuviae, and cling to the vegetation whereas their exoskeletons harden. The years of the emergence of Periodical cicadas, it supplies an overabundant quantity of meals.
In season, additionally eat blueberries, blackberries and different fruits. According to Edward Howe Forbush, once they arrive north within the spring, they feed within the fields and meadows.
Then, they comply with the plows, accumulating larvae, earthworms and caterpillars left uncovered, and in case there’s a plague of Paleacrita vernata caterpillars in a fruit orchard, these birds will fly a kilometer to get them for their chicks.
In season, it eats blueberries, blackberries, and different fruit. These birds will be lured to yard bird feeders by bread and seed mixtures and suet.
In the late summer season and in autumn, the red-winged blackbird will feed in open fields, blended with grackles, cowbirds, and starlings in flocks that may quantity within the thousands.
It feeds on corn whereas it’s maturing; as soon as the grain has hardened it’s comparatively secure from this bird since its beak and digestive system will not be tailored for the consumption of arduous and entire corn grains, in contrast to what occurs with the Common grackle, which has a longer and stronger beak.
Studies of the stomachs of people of each sex reveal that males devour larger proportions of crop grains, whereas females ingest a comparatively bigger quantity of herb seeds and animal matter.
In the winter of 1975-1976, close to Milan, western Tennessee, corn and herb seeds have been the primary meals consumed by a red-winged blackbird.
Herbs whose seeds have been generally consumed have been Sorghum halepense, Xanthium strumarium, Digitaria ischaemum, Sporobolus spp., Polygonum spp. and Amaranthus spp.
Red-winged Blackbird Breeding
The red-winged blackbird nests in unfastened colonies. The nest is inbuilt cattails, rushes, grasses, sedge, or in alder or willow bushes. The nest is constructed completely by the feminine over the course of 3 to 6 days.
It is a basket of grasses, sedge, and mosses, lined with mud, and sure to surrounding grasses or branches. It is positioned 7.6 cm (3.Zero in) to 4.Three m (14 ft) above water.
A clutch consists of three or 4, not often 5, eggs. Eggs are oval, clean, and barely shiny, and measure 24.Eight mm × 17.55 mm (0.976 in × 0.691 in). They are pale bluish-green, marked with brown, purple, and/or black, with most markings across the bigger finish of the egg.
These are incubated by the feminine alone and hatch in 11 to 12 days. Red-winged blackbirds are hatched blind and bare however are prepared to go away from the nest 11 to 14 days after hatching.
Red-winged blackbirds are polygynous, with territorial males defending as much as 10 females. However, females steadily copulate with males aside from their social mate and sometimes lay clutches of blended paternity. Pairs increase two or three clutches per season, in a brand new nest for every clutch.
The reproductive season of the red-winged blackbird extends roughly from the top of April to the top of July.
On the opposite hand, in numerous states has been estimated that the interval wherein the energetic nests contained eggs lay between starting in late April and early late August; and in northern Louisiana, nests have been discovered to harbor chicks from late April to late July.
The peak of the nesting season (the time with the very best variety of energetic nests) has been recorded between the first half of May and the start of June elsewhere.
An examination in eastern Ontario discovered that though sergeant thrust started nesting earlier in years with heat springs, related to low winter values within the North Atlantic Oscillation Index, egg-laying dates remained unchanged.
Male testosterone ranges peak within the early part of the breeding season however stay excessive all through the season. Females reproduce for as much as ten years.
By the time Copulations happen, the variety of male songs and shows and the variety of intrusions into overseas territories decreases considerably. Before mating, many features of territorialism peaked.
After this, the frequency of most of the territorial behaviors decreases, and the territorial males are primarily involved with defending the females, the eggs, and the chicks from predation.
Experiments within the systematic elimination of birds from their territories counsel that the additional inhabitants of males that are current in swamps before copulations disappear after copulation.
Predation of eggs and nestlings is kind of frequent. Nest predators embrace snakes, mink, raccoons, and different birds, whilst small as marsh wrens.
The red-winged blackbird is sometimes a sufferer of brood parasites, notably brown-headed cowbirds. Since nest predation is frequent, a number of variations have advanced on this species.
Group nesting is one such trait that reduces the danger of individual predation by rising the variety of alert mother and father.
Nesting over water reduces the chance of predation, as do alarm calls. Nests, specifically, provide a strategic benefit over predators in that they’re typically nicely hidden in thick, waterside reeds and positioned at a top of 1 to 2 meters.
Males typically act as sentinels, using quite a lot of calls to indicate the sort and severity of the hazard.
Mobbing, particularly by males, can be used to scare off undesirable predators, though mobbing typically targets massive animals and man-made units by mistake.
The brownish coloration of the feminine can also function as an anti-predator trait in that it might present camouflage for her and her nest whereas she is incubating.
Predators and parasites
Predators of red-winged blackbirds embrace such species as raccoons, American mink, Long-tailed weasel, Eurasian magpie, Common grackle, the hawks and owls, Red-tailed hawk, short-tailed hawks, and snakes such because the Northern water snake and the Plains garter snake.
Ravens and grazers similar to Marsh wrens feed on eggs (and even small chicks) if the nest is left unattended, destroying the eggs, sometimes consuming from them, and pecking the nestlings to loss of life.
Red-winged Blackbird Conservation
It is a species of least concern. Being one of many largest and most generally distributed birds in North America, little has been finished to guard it against the results of habitat destruction and urbanization. It can survive in a large range of environments, many populations handle it to beat the lack of natural habitats.
However, sergeant thrushes thrive in wetland areas, and with the destruction of natural wetlands, their inhabitants are more likely to shrink.
The species is protected below the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918, a proper treaty between the United States and Canada that was later expanded to incorporate Mexico.
This legislation offers them authorized safety within the United States, however, they are often killed “when they are found preying or about to prey on ornamental trees or trees planted for shade, crops, livestock or wildlife.”
An examination in Illinois indicated that red-winged blackbird populations doubled between 1908 and 1958. It had historically reproduced in wetlands, with Ohio primarily inhabiting swamps related to lakes and rivers.
During the 20th century, nevertheless, it tailored to man-made habitat adjustments and now typically nests in hayfields, alongside roads and ditches, and elsewhere within the highlands.
Red-winged Blackbird Identification
Red-winged blackbirds are smaller than robins however bigger than sparrows, coming in at slightly below 9” in size. Both sexes have sharp black payments, however, their plumages are fairly distinct.
Males are stable black with red shoulder patches. The shoulder patches are bordered with a line of yellow on the backside, and the birds can conceal the shoulder patches once they want, leaving solely the skinny line seen.
Females resemble massive sparrows however will be acknowledged as this species by their sharp payments, orange-washed faces, and heavy, common streaking beneath.
Find This Bird
You can discover Red-winged Blackbirds within the breeding season by visiting cattail marshes and different wetlands or just by watching phone wires on a drive by the nation.
Where there’s standing water and vegetation, Red-winged Blackbirds are more likely to be one of the frequent birds you see and listen to. Listen for the male’s conk-la-lee! music.
In winter, search by mixed-species blackbird flocks and watch out to not overlook the streaky, brown females, which might generally resemble a sparrow.
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Red-winged Blackbird Facts
- Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds fluctuate markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was performed that moved nestlings between populations and located that the chicks grew as much as resemble their foster mother and father. This examination indicated that a lot of the distinction seen between populations is the result of totally different environments quite than totally different genetic makeups.
- The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, which means males have many feminine mates – as much as 15 in some instances. In some populations, 90 % of territorial males have more than one feminine nesting on their territories. But all just isn’t because it appears: one-quarter to one-half of nestlings end up to have been sired by somebody aside from the territorial male.
- Male Red-winged Blackbirds fiercely defend their territories through the breeding season, spending more than 1 / 4 of sunlight hours in territory protection. He chases different males out of the territory and assaults nest predators, generally going after a lot bigger animals, together with horses and people.
- Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost within the wetlands the place the birds breed.
- Winter flocks will be congregations of a number of million birds, together with different blackbird species and starlings. Each morning the roosts unfold out, touring so far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at evening.
- One California subspecies of the Red-winged Blackbird lacks the yellow borders to the red shoulders (epaulets) and has been dubbed the “bicolored blackbird.” Some scientists suppose this plumage distinction might assist Red-winged Blackbirds to acknowledge one another the place their range overlaps with the same Tricolored Blackbird.
- The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years, 9 months old. It was banded in New Jersey in 1967 and located alive, but injured in Michigan in 1983. It was in a position to be launched after recovering from its accidents. Learn more about the American coot.