Tag Archives: Agelaius phoeniceus

NEW VIDEO – MUSIC OF THE MARSH – RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD

One of the earliest (and most eagerly anticipated) signs of spring in the Northeast is the arrival of the Red-winged Blackbird. The males begin their displays weeks before the females arrive. Their preferred breeding habitat is wetlands, of which Cape Ann and Massachusetts has no shortage.

The females are interested in what the male sounds like and look likes. The male’s brilliant red epaulettes and raucous calls are meant to both attract females and and defend against competitors. The species is polygynous: a male successfully defending a good territory may mate with up to fifteen females in a season. Red-winged Blackbirds usually nest in loose colonies and females often mate with males other than the territory holder. Clutches of unknown paternity are not uncommon.

Males defend against intruders of all sizes — not only competing males, but also Great Blue Herons, raptors, Crows, and reportedly, even people wandering too close to their nests.

Male giving chase this past weekend to an American Kestrel

Male (above) and female Red-winged Blackbird. Red-wings are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females have very different appearances.

Red-winged Blackbirds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on seeds and grain including grasses, rice, corn, and sunflowers; a wide variety of insects and spiders, especially during the breeding season; and also small berries such as blackberries.

The Red-winged Blackbird is the United States’ and Canada’s most widely distributed blackbird. Nonetheless these wide spread wanderers are concern for conservationists.  Red-winged Blackbirds and other blackbirds are frequently targeted at their roosts in agricultural areas, where the birds may cause crop damage. (The Bobolink is persecuted on its South American wintering grounds for similar reasons.)Decades long control measures such as trapping, poisoning, and shooting, along with climate change and habitat loss, have resulted in a substantial decline in Red-winged Blackbird populations. Also under attack are important conservation laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA.)

A THREE SPECIES MOMENT – GREAT EGRET, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON AND BLACKBIRD IN THE CATTAILS!

Beautiful but fleeting surprise spring sighting at Bass Rocks this weekend- a male Red-winged Blackbird collecting cattail fluff for nest building, and two species of herons foraging, a Great Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron. Oh Joyous Spring!

Heralding Harbinger of Spring

Aside from Spring Peepers, is there a sound of the New England meadow that announces the arrival of spring more eloquently than that of the Red-winged Blackbird calling to his lady love? I think not. Happy Spring!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BST8kYjlR8y/

Loblolly Cove ~ Red-winged Blackbird Habitat

Loblolly Cove Rockport Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Loblolly Cove, Rockport

Male Red-winged Blackbird Massachusetts -4 ©Kim Smith 2015Male Red-winged Blackbird

Star of the Marsh

Male Red-winged Blackbird Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015Heard at nearly every New England marsh, one can’t help but notice the beautiful and seemingly never ending song of the male Red-winged Blackbird. From sunrise to sunset he’s calling to his girl. Early this spring I set out to record the sounds of the marsh for my Monarch film. The male Red-winged Blackbirds are the stars of the marsh and while capturing their vocalizations over the past several months, I also was also able to capture footage of their fascinating behaviors. 

Male Red-winged Blackbird Massachusetts -5 ©Kim Smith 2015Male Red-winged Blackbirds Perching on Cattails (and Eating the Seed Heads, Too)

You’ll see many more males because they perch on higher ground, at the top of the cattails, phragmites, scrubby shrubs, phone lines, and treetops. They are defending their territory through song and a showy display of red and yellow wing bars. The males too, often swoop to the edge of the pond’s shoreline and peck at the sand.

Female Red-winged Blackbird Massachusetts  -3©Kim Smith 2015

Plain Jane Female ~ What’s All the Fuss About!

The female Red-winged Blackbird, with her more subdued feathers of brown and beige, typically stays closer to the ground, building her nest and eating insects.

Female and Male Red-winged Blackbird Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2015

Female Red-winged Blackbird in the foreground with male in the background. As you can see in the photo, the female looks like a large dark sparrow.

Loblolly Cove ©Kim Smith 2015Loblolly Cove ~ Red-winged Blackbird Superhighway

See More Photos Here Continue reading