10 Interesting Facts About Red-Winged Blackbirds

Get to know fascinating facts about the red-winged blackbird, a bold black and scarlet flier that returns to backyards in spring.

red winged blackbirdCourtesy Matthew Bolyard

Red-Winged Blackbird Call

For some people, the raspy conk-ah-reeeee of the red-winged blackbirds is a sign of spring.

Red-Winged Blackbird Eggs

Female red-winged blackbirds often lay three or four pale blue-green eggs, accented with black, brown and purple markings. Learn how to identify bird eggs by color and size.

Common Backyard Birds

The species, one of the most abundant in all of North America, has experienced a decrease in population over the past 40 years.

Male Red-Winged Blackbird

Males are almost all black with bright red and yellow wing epaulets. Forget mating for life. Males of this species can’t commit. They juggle as many as 15 female mates. Check out sweet photos that show how birds flirt and attract mates.

female red winged blackbirdCourtesy Amy Estoye
Female red-winged blackbird

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Females are brown and heavily streaked. You might not realize they’re the same species as the males. Try these ideas for attracting and feeding birds in spring.

red-winged blackbirdCourtesy Richard Nimtz
Red-winged blackbird flying off with a black oil sunflower seed.

Territorial Bird Behavior

There are two reasons males flash their scarlet field marks, hunch their shoulders forward, and spread their tails: to mark their territory and warn rivals or to impress a mate. Males return from wintering ranges to claim territories in wetland marshes before the females return. The males actively defend territories, not just from other birds but from anything that dares to get too close, including people. Up to a quarter of a blackbird’s day is spent monitoring area boundaries and accosting intruders. Meet the backyard birds With a bad reputation.

juvenile red-winged blackbirdCourtesy Jennifer Hardison

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird

Baby birds leave the nest 11 to 14 days after birth. A juvenile red-winged blackbird can cause confusion if it’s in an intermediate stage that’s not illustrated in field guides. This young bird (above), is transitioning from brown-striped juvenile plumage to the black of the adult male. Visible clues include the very sharply pointed beak, pale eyebrow (like that of the adult female) and pale buff-orange at the bend of the wing, just below the shoulder. After a few weeks, this bird will be all black with a patch of red and yellow on the shoulder, making it easier to recognize. Check out super cute photos of baby birds.

What Do Red-Winged Blackbirds Eat?

Flocks of red-wings can be disconcerting when they swarm feeders. These birds prefer to eat cracked corn, black oil sunflower seed and hulled sunflower seed. You may be able to bribe them to stay in one part of the yard with an open, flat feeder filled with cracked corn or other cheap feed. Psst—here’s how to get rid of grackles and blackbirds at bird feeders.

Long Distance Migration

True snowbirds, this species travels as many as 800 miles south for the winter. They visit feeders frequently during migration when they need the extra nutrition. Learn more bird migration secrets.

Red-Winged Blackbird Name

Carolus Linneaus, a Swedish scientist, gave the bird its scientific name, Agelaius phoenicus, in 1766. The name comes from the Greek words for flocking and red. Learn how birds get their names.

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