Red-winged BlackbirdAgelaius phoeniceus

adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult female
Doug Wechsler/VIREO
immature male (1st summer)
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult male, displaying
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult female, displaying
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult male
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Description

7-9 1/2" (18-24 cm). Smaller than a robin. Male is black with bright red shoulder patches. Female and young are heavily streaked with dusky brown. See Tricolored Blackbird.

Voice

A rich, musical o-ka-leeee!

Listen

male alarm whistles
songs #3
male burry alarm whistles & chack calls
male chack calls & burry whistles
typical chack calls #1
songs #2
songs #1
male two-parted alarm whistles
male alarm whistles and chack calls
male burry alarm whistles
metallic chack calls
female chack calls & chatter-songs
other calls
female chatter-songs & whimpers
songs and chack calls

Habitat

Marshes, swamps, and wet and dry meadows; pastures.

Range

Breeds from Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland and south to northern Baja California, central Mexico, Gulf Coast, and Florida. Winters regularly across United States north to British Columbia, Great Lakes, and Pennsylvania.

Discussion

Although primarily a marsh bird, the Red-winged Blackbird will nest near virtually any body of water and occasionally breeds in upland pastures. Each pair raises two or three broods a season, building a new nest for each clutch. After the breeding season, the birds gather with other blackbirds in flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Although blackbirds are often considered pests because they consume grain in cultivated fields, farmers benefit because the birds consume harmful insects during the nesting season.

Nesting

3-5 pale blue eggs, spotted and scrawled with dark brown and purple, in a well-made cup of marsh grass or reeds, attached to growing marsh vegetation or built in a bush in a marsh.

Similar Species

adult, breeding

European Starling

7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Smaller than a robin. A short-tailed, chunky, iridescent black bird; long pointed bill, yellow in summer and dark in fall and early winter.

adult male

Tricolored Blackbird

7 1/2-9" (19-23 cm). Similar to Red-winged Blackbird. Male is black but with dark red "epaulets," very broadly margined with white.

adult male

Brewer's Blackbird

8-10" (20-25 cm). Robin-sized. Male is solid black with purplish-blue iridescent head and yellow eyes. Female is gray with dark eyes.

adult male

Boat-tailed Grackle

Males 16-17" (41-43 cm); females 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, iridescent blue on back and breast; yellow or brown eyes. Female smaller, brown with paler breast.

adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

Male, 16-17" (41-43 cm); female, 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, with iridescent purple on back and breast. Female smaller, brown with a pale breast.

adult male Coastal (Purple)

Common Grackle

12" (30 cm). Jay-sized. Long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight.

adult male

Yellow-headed Blackbird

8-11" (20-28 cm). Robin-sized. Male much larger than female. Male is bright yellow on head, neck and upper breast, blackish elsewhere, with conspicuous white markings on wings.

Vireo

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