My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus

The Red-winged Blackbird  is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae found in most of North and much of Central America. It breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala, with isolated populations in western El Salvador, northwestern Honduras, and northwestern Costa Rica. It may winter as far north  and British Columbia, but northern populations are generally migratory, moving south to Mexico and the southern United States. Claims have been made that it is the most abundant and best studied living bird in North America. The Red-winged Blackbird is sexually dimorphic, the male is all black with a red shoulder and yellow wing bar, while the female is a nondescript dark brown. Seeds and insects make up the bulk of the Red-winged Blackbird’s diet.

Virtually all of North America’s raptors take adult or young Red-winged Blackbirds, even Barn Owls, which usually only take small mammals, and Northern Saw-whet Owls, which are scarcely larger than a male Red-winged. Accipiter hawks are among their most prolific predators and, locally, they are one of the preferred prey species of Short-tailed Hawks. Crows, ravens, magpies and herons are occasionally predators of blackbird nests. Additional predators of blackbirds of all ages and their eggs include raccoons, mink, foxes and snakes, especially the rat snake. Marsh Wrens destroy the eggs, at least sometimes drinking from them, and peck the nestlings to death.

The Red-winged Blackbird aggressively defends its territory from other animals. It will attack much larger birds. Males have been known to swoop at humans who encroach upon their nesting territory during breeding season. I have a couple of photos of them defending their territory which I’ll add in the photo section.

On to my photos:

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

 

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

And two showing males attacking other birds who ventured too close to their mates nest.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a killdeer

Red-winged blackbird attacking a killdeer

Red-winged blackbird attacking a gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a gull

This is number 71 in my photo life list, only 279 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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13 responses

  1. The sound of the red-winged blackbird is one of my favorites. I always love to read of your enthusiasm for nature.

    March 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    • Thank you Kathy, they are one of my favorites as well, a sure sign of spring.

      March 30, 2013 at 9:45 pm

  2. Good thing I stayed away from the red winged black birds. I just love the call of the wilds when I searching for the bird yesterday. Just as well, I didn’t find the bird. Beautiful photos.

    March 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    • Thank you. You know, I’ve been standing there watching them attack many different critters, including a deer one time, but the red-winged blackbirds have never come after me. Maybe I’m just lucky?

      March 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm

  3. Wow-I had no idea that so many other animals and birds picked on red wings. Ours finally returned but then it snowed again so they packed their bags and left. That was over a week ago and I don’t think they’ve come back yet.

    March 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    • Are you sure that the first flock didn’t continue on to the north? They’ve been coming through in waves here.

      March 30, 2013 at 9:41 pm

  4. AJ

    Just saw my first R-w Blackbirds of the season here in NE Wisconsin! Spring might be here, after all!

    March 30, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    • I sure hope so, thanks for the comment!

      March 30, 2013 at 10:28 pm

  5. In spite of how annoying these can become, I love red wing blackbirds. Their brilliant red wings and beautiful songs. And the girls always confuse me. I keep thinking they’re are some kind of fancy bird.

    March 31, 2013 at 10:41 am

    • Thanks, I love them because they are a true harbinger of spring.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:44 am

  6. The male Redwings are here setting up territory now- love their ‘songs’. Great pictures of the belligerent blackbirds attacking others- they are indeed pugnacious!

    March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    • Thank you. Somewhere in my archives I have photos of a blackbird sinking its talons in the back of a hawk, and riding the hawk for a while. My brother calls that hawk surfing. I was going to look for those photos, but I have over 30,000 saved, too many to search through.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm

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