Sunday, April 5, 2009

Red-winged Blackbird Habits

I had been watching a couple of red-winged blackbirds during a walk in Stiles & Hart Conservation Area last month. The male flew into the reeds growing in a small pond and I decided to take some video since it was interesting to watch what he did.

This video isn't terribly exciting, but you can hear the dry "chek" sound he's making in the beginning of the video, and then toward the end he climbs sideways up the reed, starts to display the red on his wings and then flies toward the camera.

Some interesting red-winged blackbird habits taken from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

  • When defending territory or trying to attract a female the male displays its epaulettes (red on its wings- "shoulder decorations" is the literal translation)
  • They are highly polygynous (keep multiple breeding partners) and males can have up to 15 females in their territory
  • A male might spend more than a quarter of all the daylight hours in territory defense
  • Red-winged blackbird populations and sub-species vary in appearance and it is largely due to environment--an experiment was done where nestlings were moved and they grew up to resemble the species they were left with
  • They keep roosting congregations throughout the entire year. In the summer they hang out in small groups in the wetlands at night (for foraging and breeding) and in the winter it can join congregations of several million birds at night and then they disperse in the morning.

I find that last habit really fascinating. I can't believe that they gather in groups that large. They apparently roost with other blackbird species and European Starlings which makes me find the several million number easier to believe if the group includes those species also.

Here is an immature male red-winged black bird picture from our trip to Mt. Auburn Cemetery last weekend:

This was a tough ID for me--I should have known by the white mark on its wing. Learn something new every day!


meg said...

i love red-winged blackbirds! so pretty to see the red when they fly!

Andy said...

After reading your posts about Stiles and Hart Conservation Park, I think I'll put it on my list of places to visit and explore.

Larry said...

That is interesting about the flocking behavior.I never realized that the male Redwings are such players.

Dawn Fine said...

Great video and information!
Thanks for a great post.