The red-winged blackbirds are a passerine bird species found in North America and Central America. This species is one of the most abundant in North America. The scientific name of red-winged blackbirds is Agelaius phoeniceus. It is named for the male’s bright red shoulders (epaulets). It is territorial and defends its nest fiercely. This bird is one of the first signs of spring in Canada. In this article, we are going to discuss where in Canada you can find the red-winged blackbird.
Let’s start with a description of the red-winged blackbird.
A red-winged blackbird is a broad-shouldered blackbird with a sharply pointed bill and a medium-length rail.
Male Red-Winged Blackbirds
Generally, male red-winged blackbirds are black and have bright red-orange shoulder patches. These red shoulder patches of the male are mostly hidden by its feathers and are displayed when it starts singing.
Female Red-Winged Blackbirds
Females are quite different from adult males in appearance. They are brownish and also have streaked breasts. Adult Female red-winged blackbirds are also often mistaken for other blackbirds or large sparrows. Females are smaller than males.
The male red-winged blackbirds are more of an attention seeker. To get noticed, they do everything like sitting on high perches. The female red-winged blackbirds like to stay lower, quietly weaving their nests together or searching through the vegetation for food. These birds are considered bold as, during their nesting season, they often attack the larger birds, such as crows, when they fly close to their nesting area. These North American birds gather in huge flocks of millions of birds during the winter season to eat grains with other blackbird species and familiar birds. Red-winged blackbirds sing their nasal songs in marshes and wet fields.
Red-winged blackbirds can be found in wetland habitats like freshwater marshes, saltwater marshes, wet roadsides, and upland habitats like drier meadows, alfalfa fields, and old fields. These abundant birds of North America breed in brushy swamps and freshwater marshes. During winter, they can be spotted in the feedlots and crop fields. Outside the breeding season, huge flocks of these birds gather in pastures and farm fields.
These North American birds usually lay 3-4 eggs. Their eggs are pale blue-green and have markings of black, purple, and brown at larger ends. The incubation period in females is of about 10-12 days. The young birds leave their nest after 11-15 days of hatching.
The red-winged blackbirds are omnivorous and mostly feeds on insects, seeds, and small fruits. Insects include grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, beetles, and snails. In seeds, these birds feed on grasses, waste grain, corn stubble, and weeds. Red-winged blackbirds also feed on small animals and carrion. During the breeding season, diet is mainly animal matter and plant matter.
The breeding season can start from February and can go through August. Red-winged blackbirds breed in wet meadows, freshwater marsh, wooded or brushy swamps, hayfields, or roadside ditches. These birds may nest in upland areas but prefer wetlands. They forages in open habitats like mudflats and fields. Also, the males in breeding plumage are familiar birds to various people. They are solid black in appearance, with red wing patches having a light yellow stripe on each patch, and are highly variable to the females. Every breeding female may raise two or three clutches per season and builds a new nest for each of its clutches.
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During nesting season, these birds defend their territory. The male red-winged blackbirds attract a mate by perching on high stalk with fluffed feathers and partly spread tails. These birds sing by lifting the edge of their wing to show off their red shoulder patches. These territorial males usually chase away the nest predators like larger animals, birds, and even humans while the females lay clutches, builds nests, and feed the young birds.
Mostly one male has more than one mate. The nests are made in marsh growths like cattails, dense grass in fields or bushes. Nests are usually made of grass, leaves, and rootlets. These North American birds also do group nesting with familiar birds for some added security.
Red-Winged Blackbirds and Other Blackbirds Found In Canada
Canada is located in the northern region of North America. It has a wide range of birds, some of which are migratory while others are permanent habitats. There are around 400 species of birds found in Canada, one of which is the red-winged blackbird.
The male red-winged blackbird returns in the spring before the female. They travel during the day and also migrates in large flocks. The red-winged blackbirds are also widely studied in North America. The main threat to these birds is the loss of habitat due to wetlands for development and agriculture. These birds are also vulnerable to pesticides in the food chain.
These birds are widely distributed in the United States and Canada, with about 20 recognized subspecies. Most of these species are quite similar in appearance. Male red-winged blackbirds are glossy black and have a pale yellow border at the epaulet’s bottom. The yellow shoulder strip is always visible, while the red epaulet is sometimes under the feather and is revealed when the bird opens its wings to fly.
Also, three subspecies are found in some parts of California and Mexico. These subspecies are called the ‘Bicolored Blackbirds’ or ‘California Bicolored.’ The males have only the red patch(epaulet) on their shoulders and lack the yellow border, while the females are blackish-brown and are not streaked. Likewise, one can also find a tricolored blackbird, a California subspecies, and other blackbirds.
The red-winged blackbird is the most common in Canada. There are also other blackbirds in Canada like yellow-headed, Euphagus cyanocephalus, Brewers, and rusty blackbirds.
The red-winged blackbird is one of the most common birds found in Canada. You can spot them in southern Yukon, central Manitoba, south Quebec, southwestern Newfoundland, northern Saskatchewan, and Labrador.
Watch Video: The Red-Winged Blackbird
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