Beautiful young buck (and doe) frolicking in the great marsh at sunrise this morning. Listen to the sounds of the marsh too – the male Red-winged Blackbirds and a male Cardinal are also wooing – spring is in the air!
Tag Archives: Red-winged Blackbird male
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.)
As Putin’s war rages and the Russian’s crimes against humanity continue to hold the Ukrainian people hostage, we look for hope everywhere and anywhere. Especially when taking care of a child, an ill family member, or an elderly person we have to keep our spirits up, for the sake of our loved ones at the very least.
Hope is nations coming together and helping nations and individuals helping individuals, in the form of the hand extended to two million (and counting) refugees given by European neighboring countries, to the crushing economic sanctions imposed, to supplies arriving to the Ukraine from NATO countries and from around the globe, along with everyone in the world (aside from Putin and his allies at home and abroad), trying their damndest to prevent World War Three.We’re finding hope, too, in the signs of spring and new life beginning.
Four year old Charlotte coming in breathless with delight at the crocus and daffodil shoots emerging in the garden. And one of the most welcome sounds of spring is the beautiful chorus of courtship love songs of Passerines. There is renewed energy with the neighborhood songbirds; their appetites have increased markedly and nest building has commenced.
Eastern Bluebird male, Black-capped Chickadee, and American Robin eating the last of the Sumac fruits.
Monarch Butterflies are departing Mexico in a great swirling exodus while our winter resident birds are shoring up for their mass migration northward. Some have already left our coastline and waterways. There have been no sightings of the Snow Buntings for a week and fewer Buffleheads appear to be about. Soon, most of the Snowies will have departed. Local owls and eagles are laying eggs, while many travelers have yet to arrive.
Grand flocks of Brant Geese are massing. A long distant migrant, they’ve earned the nickname ‘Little Sea Goose’ for their habit of wintering over in saltwater bays, marshes, and sounds.
Killdeers have arrived and are sorting out their territories and, If you can imagine, Piping Plovers will be returning in just a few short weeks. To follow are members of the Ardeidae Family – Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Black and Yellow Crowned Herons, and Little Blue and Green Herons.
Piping Plover nest with two eggs
We’ll soon see Muskrats, River Otters, and Beavers skirting around thawing ponds and baby Red Fox kits will in no time at all be peaking from dens.
Red Fox Kits
Red-winged Blackbirds have been here for several weeks. The male’s courtship call is welcome music of the marsh. He poses a striking silhouette chortling from the tips of Cattails, dressed in jet plumage with red shoulder epaulettes underlined in yellow. A female has yet to be spotted in her plain jane nesting camouflage of brown and tan.
Despite the horrors unfolding before our very eyes there is much to look forward to in the arrival of spring. We can’t as individuals end the war but we can take heart in a thousand acts of kindness and find joy in the unfolding beauty that surrounds, of new life in spring.
Pussy Willows (Salix discolor)
LATE WINTER WILDLIFE UPDATE -AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR!
Beautiful bird songs fill the air as songbirds are pairing up.
Winter resident ducks are seen in pairs, too.
Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Scaups
Our young Black-crowned Night Heron has made it through the winter!
And a pair of American Pipits has been here all winter, too.
Many Short-eared Owls and Snowy Owls have not yet departed for their summer breeding grounds.
Red-tailed and Marsh Hawks are here year round and this is a wonderful time of year to observe their behaviors, before sparse vegetation turns lush with summer growth.
Fox and Coyotes have been busy mating; their kits and pups are born from mid-March-through May.
Bald Eagles in our area may begin laying eggs as early as February.
The Harbor Seal posse is seen nearly everyday. The highest count so far was 27!
A pair of sweet Snow Buntings has been here for several days, eating tiny seeds found on the ground.
Brant Geese are seen in small to large flocks before heading to the high Arctic tundra to breed.
Of Rock and Reed, and Sun and Sand – Morning Scenes from Cape Ann’s Beautiful Backshore
Beautiful, beautiful Cape Ann spring awakening. Photos from Monday’s fine April morning.
Sing, sing sing Red-winged Blackbird!
Almost daybreak at Good Harbor Beach
Backshore Sunrise. The sun was rising on the way to Brace Cove
Painted Turtles and a female Red-breasted Merganser were basking on the warm rocks while a flock of Quarky Pants were roosting in the trees. Happy Spring!
I’ve never seen so many Black-crowned Night Herons–TEN all together in the trees and at the water’s edge.
BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL GOOD HARBOR BEACH
Scenes from this morning’s Good Harbor Beach sunrise.
Pink and violet hues when I arrived at 5:15 quickly gave way to reds and yellow, and then the looming gray mass of clouds overtook the sky.
Beauty abounds–from the grandest skies to the smallest creatures–that’s life at the edge of the sea.
This fearless little Song Sparrow ate breakfast at my feet
HOW COLOR IS CREATED IN BIRD FEATHERS
In thinking about how colors are created in bird feathers, I wondered if it was similar to how color is formed in butterfly wings. I learned that yes, it is very similar, and that bird feather color has evolved in several ways, from pigmentation present or as a result of light refracting through the layered structure of the feather.
Pigments are colored material found in plants, animals, and nearly every physical substance in nature. Pigmentation in birds comes from three different sources: melanins, carotenoids, and porphyrines.
Melanins are tiny bits of color in the feathers of birds and in their skin. Melanins produce colors from palest yellow to rusty red browns to the richest black, depending on where the melanin is located and in what degree of concentration. Feathers with melanin are the strongest of all. A bird’s flight feathers are the most susceptible to wear and usually have the highest degree of melanin.
Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins are strong flyers. Their flight feathers have rich concentrations of melanin.
Carotenoids are produced by plants. Birds that eat specific plants, or eat something that has eaten the plant, acquire pigment from carotenoids. A carotenoid-rich diet is responsible for the beautiful vermillion feathers of the Northern Cardinal, as well as the electrifying cadmium yellow of the male American Goldfinch. Another example is the pink feathers of the flamingo, which also have a diet rich in carotenoids that come from the crustaceans that they eat, which ate algae. Melanins and carotenoids can interact to produce feathers such as olive green.
The third group of pigments are called porphyrins and they are the rarest, found only in a handful of bird families. Porphyrins are produced by modified amino acids and all share a common trait, which is to fluoresce bright red when exposed to ultraviolet light. Porphyrins are found in some pigeons, owls, and turacos.
The intensity of the red of the Northern Cardinal is an example of how feather color plays an important role in the survival of a species. Cardinal foods high in carotenoids include rose hips and dogwood berries. The brightest red birds usually have superior breeding territories, with the greatest abundance of their preferred foods. The reddest birds make the most successful parents because of their ability to bring an increased amount of food to the nestlings. When Cardinals are raised in captivity on a diet lacking in carotenoids, with each successive molt, the feathers become paler and paler.
Like butterflies, birds can see color in the ultraviolet spectrum (we humans cannot). Perhaps the way we see birds is entirely different from they way they see themselves!
Part Two Structural Color continued tomorrow.