Red-winged Blackbirds are
one of the most abundant
birds in the state. They can seemingly be found in just about every marsh or
weedy ditch in the state during the summer. The colorful males (photo on
the right) can often be seen perched on high perches, singing their song and
defending their territory. The less colorful females (see photos at the
bottom of the page) are often not as visible. Red-winged Blackbirds are
somewhat more dispersed during the summer breeding season, but are much more
gregarious during migration and in the winter, when flocks of mixed blackbird
species may number in the many thousands.
Habitat: Marshes, swamps, hayfields, and wet thickets.
Often frequents feedlots.
Diet: Mostly insects and seeds. Many
insects in the summer, but the majority of the diet is seeds and waste grain. A
noted enemy of sunflower growers!
Behavior: Usually forages by walking along the
ground in search of seeds and insects. They will also forage low in
Nesting: Mid-May through August. The nest of a
Red-winged Blackbird is an open cup of grasses, reeds, and other plant material,
built in wetland vegetation such as cattails. The female usually lays 3 or
4 eggs, and she alone incubates them. Upon hatching, both parents feed the
young. The young leave the nest after about 2 weeks.
Migration: Summers throughout much of North
America, except rare in Alaska and in northern Canada. Populations in
Canada and the northern tier of U.S. states typically migrate southward in
the fall, although they are present all year in much of the U.S.
Similar Species: Generally distinctive. The
very similar Tricolored Blackbird is only found in a few locations in
Bird Feeders: Will attend feeders for breadcrumbs and
Conservation Status: Very common and widespread. They are
considered by some (including in this state) an agricultural pest because of
their fondness for sunflower seeds. Efforts are underway in many areas
(unfortunately, including in this state) to cull their numbers through mass
poisoning or netting. However, given the large population and wide
geographic distribution, the
IUCN lists the
Red-winged Blackbird as a species of "Least Concern".
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Red-winged Blackbird"
eNature.com - Red-winged Blackbird
Photo Information: April 18th, 2010 - Minnehaha
County, South Dakota -- Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Red-winged Blackbird photos.