Thursday, June 20, 2013

Red-winged Blackbird

Because Red-winged Blackbirds are among the most abundant North American birds—they range from Alaska and northern Canada south through Central America—I have posted various photos of this handsome species. (See, for example, this post from 2011, or check out the species index tab at the top of this blog.) Familiarity, plus their huge flocks with their potential for damaging crops, may dampen our appreciation for these striking birds. (People are now one of the major causes of mortality for Red-winged Blackbirds (Yasukawa and Searcy 1995).)

Why is this blackbird so abundant? Their habitat includes both freshwater and saltwater marshes, the edges of ponds and streams, wet roadsides, dry meadows, and old fields (Allaboutbirds). I suspect the building of the Interstate Highway System has contributed to greatly expand the Red-wing’s range across North America—the highway right-of-ways are perfect habitat for this species.

Despite their abundance, I do not band many Red-winged Blackbirds. They seldom visit my urban bird feeders and are wary at our Dundas station. The male and female blackbirds on this post were banded and photographed during a public banding demonstration that Erika and I presented at the River Bend Nature Center near Faribault, Minnesota, this May. People attending had no trouble identifying the male, but had more difficulty recognizing the female below.

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