Red-winged Blackbird

Hey guys, welcome back! Today, one of my favs, the Red-winged Blackbird. Their call (some guides use the mnemonic “konk-a-ree” to describe it, though I personally don’t hear it) is one that I always associate with summer, and until I really started birding, only heard then. Now, I can hear it almost year round. In fact, the Red-winged Blackbird is found throughout the continental U.S. year round. They are, or can be, short distant migrants with a population that spend their summers in central and southern Canada. Red-winged Blackbirds are a good example of a bird name that is actually descriptive of what the bird looks like, which isn’t always the case. They are all black, with red and yellow shoulders. Well, the males look like that. The females look kind of like a sparrow with all sorts of brown streaks and mottling.

Red-winged Blackbird Female
Female Red-winged Blackbird, Central Park, NY

They are also very aggressive and territorial. They love to nest in cattails, near waterbodies, and one time while working in Central Park, I saw one attacking a Great Blue Heron. The heron flew off, but apparently not far enough, as the blackbird chased after him, continuing to dive bomb him until he flew all the way to the other side of the lake! Perhaps another reason I don’t think of them as “year round” birds is that in winter, they spend less time near ponds. Instead, they often form large, mixed flocks with other blackbirds, including grackles, Brewer’s, and even Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings. I remember one day in Central Park, middle of December, I happened upon a bunch of cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds foraging on some baseball fields together. I think that’s the first time I remember seeing Red-winged blackbirds in December.

Red-winged Blackbird Male1
Red-winged Blackbird male, Central Park, NY

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up, I went fishing a lot with my dad. Whenever we’d be near a pond or lake that had cattails, all you’d hear were Red-winged Blackbirds. It’s probably the reason I associate the Red-winged Blackbird’s song with summer, as we wouldn’t be out there fishing in winter. Even to this day, in the dead of January, when I hear a Red-winged Blackbird, I think about summer, and those many fishing trips. My dad had a little rhyme he’d often say when hearing a Red-winged Blackbird. I don’t know its origin or meaning, but I’ll never forget how it goes. “Red-winged  Blackbird sittin’ on a fence. Hasn’t got a dollar, got fifteen cents.” I think I’ll wrap it up with that. Come back next time, when we head back to the world of woodpeckers and check out the Hairy Woodpecker. See you all then!

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