Family: (Icteridae) Blackbirds and Orioles
Preferred Habitat: Marshes and fields.
Seasonal Occurrence: Abundant, particularly in winter. Nests in our area.
Profile by Vicki Stittleburg: Red-winged Blackbirds are one of the most abundant birds across North America. Males are a glossy black with a red and yellow shoulder patch or 'epaulet'. Females resemble large sparrows; they are brown overall with dark streaks on the breast, a peachy wash on the chin and throat and have a whitish eyebrow. Young males resemble females and take three years to molt into adult breeding plumage.
Red-winged Blackbirds breed in marshes and moist, open shrubby habitats. Males are polygynous and may have several mates nesting on their territories which they defend fiercely. During breeding season, males spend more than a quarter of daylight hours chasing other males out of the territory and attacking nest predators including hawks and crows. The male's song, 'konk-a-reeee' is distinctive and once recognized, easy to identify.
Winter is a great time to observe large concentrations of Red-winged Blackbirds. Some of the northern populations have migrated to Texas and have joined up with our resident birds to feast on seeds and grains. Visit Brazos Bend State Park in the evening to see millions of these birds form huge flocks that look like billowing smoke over a winter marsh.