Birds – Red-winged Blackbird

(Agelaius phoeniceus)

Called also : SWAMP BLACKBIRD ; RED-WINGED ORIOLE ; RED-WINGED STARLING

Length—Exceptionally variable—7.50 to 9.80 inches. Usually about an inch smaller than the robin.

Male—Coal-black. Shoulders scarlet, edged with yellow.

Female—Feathers finely and inconspicuously speckled with brown, rusty black, whitish, and orange. Upper wing coverts rusty black, tipped with white, or rufous and sometimes spotted with black and red.

Range—North America. Breeds from Texas to Columbia River, and throughout the United States. Commonly found from Mexico to 57th degree north latitude.

Migrations—March. October. Common summer resident.

In oozy pastures where a brook lazily finds its way through the farm is the ideal pleasure ground of this “bird of society.” His notes, ” h’-wa-ker-ee ” or ” con-quer-ee ” (on an ascending scale), are liquid in quality, suggesting the sweet, moist, cool retreats where he nests. Liking either heat or cold (he is fond of wintering in Florida, but often retreats to the north while the marshes are still frozen); enjoying not only the company of large flocks of his own kind with whom he travels, but any bird associates with whom he can scrape acquaintance ; or to sit quietly on a tree-top in the secluded, inaccessible bog while his mate is nesting; satisfied with cut-worms, grubs, and insects, or with fruit and grain for his food—the blackbird is an impressive and helpful example of how to get the best out of life.

Yet, of all the birds, some farmers complain that the black-bird is the greatest nuisance. They dislike the noisy chatterings when a flock is simply indulging its social instincts. They complain, too, that the blackbirds eat their corn, forgetting that having devoured innumerable grubs from it during the summer, the birds feel justly entitled to a share of the profits. Though occasionally guilty of eating the farmer’s corn and oats and rice, yet it has been found that nearly seven-eighths of the red-wing’s food is made up of weed-seeds or of insects injurious to agriculture.

This bird builds its nest in low bushes on the margin of ponds or low in the bog grass of marshes. From three to five pale-blue eggs, curiously streaked, spotted, and scrawled with black or purple, constitute a brood. Nursery duties are soon finished, for in July the young birds are ready to gather in flocks with their elders.

” The blackbirds make the maples ring With social cheer and jubilee ; The red-wing flutes his ` 0-ka-lee ! “‘ —Emerson.