Monday, March 1, 2010

Bird of the Week - XXlll

This week's Bird of the Week is the Red-winged blackbird. Perhaps the most abundant bird in North America, the Red-winged blackbird is one the the earliest returning migratory birds in our area. After spending the winter in the southern part of the United States, they arrive back here in Reading from the end of February through early March. Saturday (Feb.27th), I observed a flock of 11 Red-winged blackbirds, with several of them singing.   

The Red-winged blackbird is a medium-sized songbird that has a moderately long, slender bill and a medium length tail. The male is black with a bright red to reddish-orange patch on it's wings. The female is totally different appearance, looking a lot like a large, dark sparrow. It's song is a harsh, gurgling trill described as "kon-ka-reee".

Red-winged blackbirds breed in a variety of wetland and grassy areas, including swamps, marshes, meadows, and fields. The male Red-winged blackbird flashes and displays the red patches (epaulettes) on it's wings to attract a mate. The males vigorously defend their territory, chasing any birds that comes into it, trying to drive them away.

About 75% of the Red-winged Blackbird diet is seeds. During the breeding season, they also eat insects, especially dragonflies, mayflies, and caddis flies as they emerge from their aquatic larval stage. In winter, grain is an important source of food, and many birds feed on corn stubble and at feedlots.

Photos taken from All About Birds.

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