|Species: Red-winged Blackbird
Blackbird is perhaps the most abundant and most commonly studied
bird of North America. Although this Blackbird varies in size
geographically, adults of all populations are sexually dimorphic in
size, plumage, and behaviour. The male is larger, possesses the more
conspicuous definitive adult plumage, and is more conspicuous in his
behaviour than is the female.
The Red-winged Blackbird breeds in marsh and upland habitats from
southern Alaska and central Canada to Costa Rica, and from
California to the Atlantic Coast and West Indies. This blackbird
migrates to and from the northern portions of its breeding range,
but some populations in the western United States and Gulf Coast are
known to be resident year-round, as are populations in Middle
Medium sized, sexually dimorphic blackbird with medium-length,
Length 22 cm, weight 52g.
Male displays delayed plumage maturation; third-year and older male
is glossy black with “epaulets” of red (for which species is named)
bordered with yellow on wrist (bend) of wing. Second-year male is
highly variable in plumage, from female-like brown with heavily
streaked breast to black with brown flecks; epaulets are also
variable, typically red-orange with brown or black spotting.
Females also show some delayed plumage maturation, but less than
male. All females are mottled brown above and heavily streaked below
with a prominent white eyebrow stripe. Third-year and older females
are variable in throat (pink to buffy) and epaulet (dull orange to
bright red-orange) colour. Second-year females are less variable,
throat and face light pink, epaulets brown to salmon.
to adult female, but darker and with an orangish shoulder patch
bordered by white.
Red-winged Blackbird is unmistakable over most of it range, but from
southern Oregon to northern Baja California overlaps in range with
very similar Tricoloured Blackbird ; male Tricoloured has red
epaulets bordered by white, not yellow, lesser-coverts. Female
Tricoloured is very dark, with diffuse streaking, but not always
safely distinguished from females of some races of Red-winged
Known especially for feeding by gaping, i.e. forcibly opening bill
against resistance. Uses gaping to expose insects hiding in the
sheathing of leaf bases of aquatic plants, under sticks, seeds, or
other objects on the ground or on floating vegetation, and under
stones in stream riffles. Also captures food simply by picking up
seeds and other items from ground and buy gleaning insects from
Red-wings form the nucleus of huge flocks of mixed blackbird species
that feed in fields, pastures, and marshes from early fall to
Breeds in a variety of wetland and upland habitats. Wetland habitats
include freshwater marsh, saltwater marsh, sloughs or where bushes
and small trees grow in and around ponds, lakes, sluggish streams.
Upland breeding habitats commonly include sedge meadows, alfalfa
fields and other crop lands, and old fields; less commonly in wooded
areas along waterways and in open patches in woodlands.
Blackbird is known for its polygynous social system. Up to 15
females have been observed nesting on the territory of a single
male, making this one of the most highly polygynous of all bird
species. Recent molecular studies have shown that territory owners
do not necessarily sire all of the nestlings on their territories,
which demonstrates that females as well as males often copulate with
more than one partner during a breeding season and even for a single
The nest is situated in cattails, rushes, bushes, trees sometimes
over water, in alfalfa and other plants of upland fields, even on
the ground in dense grass.
It is a loosely woven cup of dried cattail leaves, sedges, fastened
to plants or twigs with plant fibers, cup lined with fine grasses,
rushes. 3-5 pale blue-green, heavily marked eggs.
Conservation Status: No
Some populations of Red-winged Blackbirds are year round
residents of the Lower Mainland while other populations move
short distances south for the winter. Capture rates of this
species (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100
net hours) occur in almost every month of the year in good
numbers. However, numbers especially peak in February due to
the influx of non-resident birds returning to their breeding