Bird of the Week: Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Red Winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus male

Male Red-winged Blackbird

This beautiful bird loves hanging out around water, which is why you will find it in any wetland area with lots of vegetation. If you can’t see it right away, listen for its call (play here).  The bright flashes of red on its wings will let you know it is a red-winged blackbird. This species is highly dimorphic, meaning the males and females look very different from each other. As winter comes, you will begin to see them in harvested fields where they pick at grains and insects that are left over from the year’s crop.

Red Winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus female

Female Red-winged Blackbird

These birds are also polyamorous.  The males will have as many as 15 females nesting in their territory, but they aren’t the only ones who like a little extra love since up to half of the nestlings will have been sired by outside males. The males are also fiercely territorial during the mating season, spending up to 25% of their day defending their territory from other males and predators. They will even attempt to chase out much larger animals such as horses and people. 


Thanks to Seth Hal for sharing his bird expertise.

For more information visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Credits: Walter Siegmund Agelaius phoeniceus 0110 taxo CC BY-SA 3.0 and Agelaius phoeniceus 2 CC BY-SA 3.0.

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