Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird
Photo: Inge Curtis

Seen locally the year round, Red-winged Blackbirds gather in flocks in winter. Occasionally an all-female flock dives into the garden to frenetically peck for seeds until disturbed when they storm off. Sometimes the females are mistaken for immature starlings or sparrows because of their brown stripes, but the male is distinctive in his glossy black plumage and flashy red and yellow epaulettes. They have started to sing again but can’t make musically liquid notes for long before descending into gurgles!

As the breeding season approaches, they split up and leave fields and gardens to set up territories in the saltmarshes nearby. The appearance of these dandies evolved to attract the ladies, polygamous as they are, but their colors also serve as warnings. They are fearless driving off predators near their nests and even ‘bomb’ humans who venture too close.

By Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in reproduction & embryology. Career as professor & research director spanned from Cambridge to Cornell's Weill Medical College in NYC. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America. Retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and recover from 'nature deficit disorder'. Currently a visiting scholar at William & Mary.

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