Red-winged Blackbird
Agelaius phoeniceus
Family Icteridae

A boisterous inhabitant of wetland areas, the red-winged blackbird is a distinctive species so named for the male’s striking wing patches, or epaulets.

Identifying Traits (male):

  • Glossy black body
  • Bill black, conical, and pointed
  • Red epaulets bordered with yellow beneath; red often hidden
  • Medium length, straight tail
  • Juvenile:  dark, mottled brown; distinctive red shoulders
  • Size: 18 cm (7.5”)
  • Weight: 44 g (1.5 oz)

 

Identifying Traits (female):

  • Mottled brown body
  • Underside clearly striped
  • Bill sharp, conical

Similar Species: Song sparrows share the female’s brown coloration and streaked breast, but their bills are smaller and their legs are flesh-toned rather than black.

Voice: The male’s easily recognizable song is three notes, with the last note terminating in a high trill: oak-a-lee.  Territorial males and females will frequently chastise intruders with a harsh chuck or chack, which also serves as an alarm call.

     
Adult male  
     
Adult male, display

Habitat: Red-winged blackbirds are a common sight in freshwater marsh areas during the summertime, when the males often perch conspicuously on reeds to engage in mating display.  During the cooler months of the year, red-winged blackbirds can be seen foraging in open country.

Range: Red-winged blackbirds are found throughout the continental United States

Interesting Facts: Red-winged blackbirds are one of the most polygamous birds in the world, with each male mating with five or six females.  As many as 15 females have been observed in the territory of a single male, although females may mate with multiple males as well.

   
 

 

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