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Photo Credit: Bill Horn
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Agelaius phoeniceus
OTHER NAMES: Red Wing
DESCRIPTION: The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) belongs to the family of birds (Icteridae) that include meadowlarks, orioles, and grackles. Adult birds vary in size from 7 – 9.5 inches. Adult males are black with a red and yellow shoulder patch at the bend of the wings. Females look much like a large sparrow with a heavy, sharp pointed bill and heavy striping below and a light stripe over the eye. Immature birds resemble a dark female with a reddish shoulder patch. Adult males are one of the most beautiful and unmistakable species observed by birders.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds from Canada south to Florida and Texas; winters from Pennsylvania south to Central America.
HABITAT: Breeds in swampy areas and marshes and along edges of fields; may also be found feeding in agricultural fields with mixed flocks of starlings, cowbirds, and grackles.
FEEDING HABITS: May be found feeding in agricultural fields with mixed flocks of starlings, cowbirds, and grackles. Also feeds on seeds and insects commonly found in swamps and marshes.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: When migrating, males often arrive before females in the spring. The red-winged blackbird is a gregarious species that is often found singing from reeds, trees, or fence posts. It is not uncommon to view this species feeding at bird feeders. Nests are bulky, bowl shaped structures built from grasses and are usually found attached to reeds in marshes, in bushes or even grassland habitats. Females lay 3-5 pale, bluish-green eggs marked with brown, purple, and black.
Harper and Row’s Complete Guide to North American Wildlife – Eastern Edition. 1981. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc. New York, NY. 714 pp
A Field Guide to the Birds – Eastern Land and Water Birds. 1934. Roger Tory Peterson Ed. Houton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA. 230 pp
AUTHOR: Bill Gray, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, August 2006