Marching at the Marsh

Marching at the Marsh by PKHyperFocal

Marching at the Marsh by PKHyperFocal

This dude definitely has swag! Here’s a few mostly male facts about red-winged blackbirds from the excellent All About Birds website:

The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, meaning males have many female mates – up to 15 in some cases. In some populations 90 percent of territorial males have more than one female nesting on their territories. But all is not as it seems: one-quarter to one-half of nestlings turn out to have been sired by someone other than the territorial male.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds fiercely defend their territories during the breeding season, spending more than a quarter of daylight hours in territory defense. He chases other males out of the territory and attacks nest predators, sometimes going after much larger animals, including horses and people.

The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years, 9 months old. It was banded in New Jersey in 1967, and found alive, but injured in Michigan in 1983. It was able to be released after recovering from its injuries.

PK caught this red-winged blackbird on patrol last week. See more in their Feathers gallery on Flickr

Read up on Red-winged Blackbirds on Michigan in Pictures!

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Signs of Spring: Red-winged Blackbirds

Red winged Blackbird by Reji TV

Red-winged Blackbird by Reji TV

One of my favorite signs of spring in Michigan is hearing the calls of red-winged blackbirds. I started hearing them last week in northern Michigan & just saw these pics today in our Absolute Michigan group on Flickr. The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web listing for Agelaius phoeniceus (red-winged blackbird) tells us:

The range of red-winged blackbirds extends from southern Alaska at its northern most point, to the Yucatan peninsula in the south and covers the greater part of the continent reaching from the Pacific coast of California and Canada to the eastern seaboard. Winter ranges for red-winged blackbirds vary by geographic location. Northern populations migrate south to the southern United States and Central America beginning in September or October (or occasionally as early as August). Most western and middle American populations are non-migratory.


Red-winged blackbirds roost and breed in a variety of habitats, but tend to prefer wetlands. They have been known to live in fresh and saltwater marshes. On drier ground, red-winged blackbirds gravitate towards open fields (often in agricultural areas) and lightly wooded deciduous forests. In winter red-winged blackbirds are most often found in open fields and croplands.

…As migratory birds, red-winged blackbirds share many characteristics with related species. They are strong fliers that will often migrate in flocks of a thousand or more. Roosting is often communal, resulting in large, centralized populations. Red-winged blackbirds are largely diurnal, spending most of their day foraging. Males defend territories during the mating season. As the mating season progresses, both males and females will spend more time within their territory or the territory of their mate. Although fighting among red-winged blackbirds is not all that common, even among males, it is known to occur. Males chase females at top speed during breeding season. Because of their broad range and tendency to colonize large roosting areas, red-winged blackbirds are extremely common, and are easy to find in the mating season when singing and sexual displays make them more visible.

This great web resource includes many more photos and blackbird calls. Go there!

Reji TV took this photo near Auburn Hills. See more in their Birds gallery on Flickr.

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Pond Boss: The Red-winged Blackbird

Pond Boss

Pond Boss, photo by MichaelinA2

I grew up by a marsh that was filled with Red-winged Blackbirds, and their song has always felt like lazy summer days to me. All About Birds entry for Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus says:

One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds do everything they can to get noticed, sitting on high perches and belting out their conk-la-ree! song all day long. Females stay lower, skulking through vegetation for food and quietly weaving together their remarkable nests.

Read on for more including video and blackbird calls. The Red-winged blackbird entry on Wikipedia has more, including a photo of the aforementioned red wing blackbird nest which I have to admit looks very cool!

Check this out bigger and see more in Michael’s 2013 birds slideshow.

More birds on Michigan in Pictures!