Red Winged Blackbird: 10 Interesting Facts
Get fascinating facts about the red winged blackbird, a black and red bird that returns to backyards in spring. Learn about their call, eggs and more.
Courtesy Matthew Bolyard
Red Winged Blackbird Call
For some people, the raspy conk-ah-reeeee of the red winged blackbirds is a sure sign of spring. These 9 pictures will change the way you look at black birds.
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.
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.
Courtesy John Doyle
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.
Female Red Winged Blackbird
Females are brown and heavily streaked, not black and red. You might not realize they’re the same species as the males. Try these ideas for attracting and feeding birds in spring.
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.
Courtesy 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.
What Do Red Winged Blackbirds Eat?
Flocks 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.
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.
Next, check out 20 black and white birds you might see.