Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

July 27, 2011

Red-winged Blackbirds

Filed under: Birds,Red-winged Blackbirds — wbuomaha @ 12:13 pm
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       In summer, Red-winged Blackbirds are commonly seen along rural roadsides. They particularly  seem to prefer wet ditches and marshy areas. Males are easily recognized by the red markings, called “epaulets,” on their wings. The male birds flash these epaulets when defending their territory and singing to attract a mate. They can also cover and hide their epaulets, which they do much of the time. This especially happens when a male is intruding on another male’s territory. Female Red-winged Blackbirds look nothing like their male counterparts. Consequently, they are often misidentified.  The female is brown-and-white streaked, with a brown bill and a white streak above each eye.
     Seeds  and insects make up the preponderance of Red-winged Blackbirds’ diets. They will also feed on some berries and small fruits. But during the breeding season, they eat mostly insects. These birds forage mostly while on the ground.
     Flocks of Canadian and northern U.S. Red-winged Blackbirds migrate south for the winter. Populations in the southern and western U.S. and Central America are not migratory. In winter, Red-winged Blackbirds can form huge concentrations, with up to a million birds roosting in one area at night. During the daytime, they will disperse from the roosting area in search of food.
     Male Red-winged Blackbirds are one of the most polygamous of all bird species. As many as fifteen females have been observed to be nesting in the territory of one male, but on average a male will have approximately five females in its territory. Males fiercely defend their territories during breeding season.  They perch on a tall weed or other stalk and sing,  showing their epaulets. They do not hesitate to attack much larger animals, including  hawks, crows or people. Much of the male’s time is spent defending its territory from other males and predators.
     Female Red-winged Blackbirds build their nests in three to six days. The nest is an open cup made of vegetation, lined with fine grass and attached to tall weeds or grasses.  They usually lay three to four eggs and incubate them for 10-13 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings.The fledglings will leave the nest 11-14 days after hatching. Second broods are rare.

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