BIRD OF THE WEEK / WEEK 21: May 21, 2018

© Liron Gertsman

Bird

Red-winged Blackbird

Species Name

Agelaius phoeniceus

Appearance

17-24 cm length | 31-40 cm wingspan | 29-82 gm weight

A medium-sized icterid with a sharp, pointed bill and a rounded tail of medium length.

The male is glossy black allover with bright red epaulets (shoulder patches) that are apparent when displayed or in flight. They may also have a yellow wingbar that can be seen at rest. The female is brown, darker on top and lighter below. Juveniles look similar to the adult female.

Habitat / Behaviour

Omnivore | Wetland | Lives up to 15 years

The Red-winged Blackbird inhabits both freshwater and saltwater wetlands and marshes preferring areas with cattail and other tall grasses and reeds. They are also found in open grasslands, meadows, prairies and fields.

The Red-winged Blackbird is omnivorous, with a diet that consists of 75% plant materials and with insects and other arthropods making up the rest. Typical foods include weed seeds, corn, rice, berries, dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, flies, snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders and mollusks. They can be seen gleaning insects from foliage or catching them in the air, feeding from birdfeeders or grazing in open fields in large, mixed-species feeding flocks.

Breeding

Polygynous | Nests in reeds | 3-4 greenish-blue eggs | 2-3 broods

Red-winged Blackbirds are common prey for raptors, even amongst those that otherwise don’t feed on birds, such as the Barn Owl and the Saw-whet Owl. They are also preyed on by corvids, herons, raccoons, mink, foxes and snakes.