The Red-winged Blackbird,
Agelaius phoeniceus, is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae,
found in most of North America. These birds breed from Alaska
and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and central
Mexico, and winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia.
The common name is taken from the male bird's distinctive red
shoulder patches, or "epaulets", which are visible when
the bird is flying or displaying. At rest, the male shows a paler
yellow wingbar against a black background. The female is an inconspicuous
shade of brown. The adult birds are from 7 to 9.5 inches (17 to
24 cm) long, and have distinctive sharp bills. They feed primarily
on plant seeds, including weeds and waste grain, but about a quarter
of their diet consists of insects, spiders, mollusks and other
small animals. In season, they eat blueberries, blackberries,
and other fruit. They can be lured to backyard bird feeders by
bread and seed mixtures.
north, these birds travel in single-sex flocks, and the males
usually arrive a few days before the females. Once they have reached
the location where they plan to breed, the males stake out territories
by singing. They defend their territory aggressively, both against
other male Red-winged Blackbirds and against birds they perceive
as threatening, including crows, Osprey, and hawks. Red-winged
Blackbirds prefer marshes, but will nest near any body of water.
Pairs raise two or three clutches per season, in a new nest for
each clutch. The nests are cups of vegetation, and are either
built in shrubs or attached to marsh grass. Three to five eggs
are laid at a time. They are incubated by the female and hatch
in 11-12 days.
From The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service