There is large, grassy field edged with cattails that I pass every day on my way to work. In early spring, I eagerly await seeing the male Red-winged Blackbirds that perch on the cattails, small trees, and even the stop signs along that stretch of road. Early in the season many of them congregate rather close to each other, sometimes even sharing the same tree. But once breeding season is under way, only one male (MAYBE two) will claim that field as his territory.
Displaying and singing
I have read that the male Red-winged Blackbirds, just like male Bobolinks, are polygynous (one male mates with many females). Here are a few members of this male's harem, barely visible through the tall grasses:
Click any photo to enlarge
There was a lot of chatter going on among these birds the day I took these photos. Not only was the male singing, but the females were extremely vocal as well. As I watched their movements out in the field, I began to wonder if they had active nests that they were guarding. My question was soon answered when I saw both the females and the male bringing in food for new baby blackbirds...
I was not able to determine where their nests were actually located, as both the male and female birds were very wary of my presence and were determined not to give away their nest location(s).
Here are some interesting facts about the Red-Winged Blackbird:
- The male spends at least a quarter of his time during daylight hours defending his territory against other males and nest predators.
- The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years 9 months old.
- Red-winged Blackbirds throughout most of the U.S. migrate only very short distances, if at all.