Growing up in Texas, I had no idea about Red-winged Blackbirds, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. It wasn’t until I moved to Illinois that I saw one for the first time. They are so prevalent around us and I have a few stories to tell about them because of their habits and characteristics. They are not usually at the top of the average “Favorite Bird List,” and probably don’t make the list for most people.
Last Fall, my family and I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and witnessed one of their less favorable characteristics. They can be quite aggressive when they want food. A lady was walking with her family, pushing the stroller, with a box of cheese crackers in her hand. Her little boy was walking and eating some of them when all of a sudden a Red-winged Blackbird swooped in to try and take them from the little boy. The mother started defending her son from the bird, but it was no small feat because the bird was going back and forth from the cheese crackers the little boy had and the ones left on the stroller. If you’ve ever suffered from a bird attack, you’ll know it’s actually quite scary because of the sound of their wings and the startling occurrence of their approach. Thankfully after a few minutes of fighting the bird away, the family could continue walking through the zoo in peace, but they were flustered to say the least.
On the brighter side, if you’ve driven or rode a bike past a watery field full of tall grass in the Spring and Summer in Illinois you’ve probably heard the Redwing’s call – “Quong-ka-ree! Quong-ka-ree! Quong-ka-ree!” I absolutely love the sound of Red-winged Blackbirds:
We often find Red-Winged Blackbirds picking over our yard during the Summer and Fall, seeing a whole cluster of them. It’s quite interesting to see their patterns, especially because the females have a very faint outline on their shoulders that matches the male’s red and yellow shoulder. I love the way that Burgess describes Mrs. Redwing:
Peter couldn’t help thinking that Old Mother Nature had been very unfair indeed in dressing Mrs. Redwing. She was, if anything, a little bit smaller than her handsome husband, and such a plain, not to say homely, little body that it was hard to realize that she was a Blackbird at all. In the first place she wasn’t black. She was dressed all over in grayish-brown with streaks of darker brown which in places were almost black.The Burgess Bird Book, Thornton W. Burgess, Living Press edition, pp, 47-48.
Lastly if you are wondering why they are so prevalent, it’s because they have 2-3 broods every breeding season and they are polygamous with males having a few different partners, hence the territorial displays of many males.
What do you think of Red-winged Blackbirds?
Until next time, keep birding! <3 Kate
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