A stocky, broad-shouldered blackbird with a slender, conical bill and a medium-length tail. Red-winged Blackbirds often show a hump-backed silhouette while perched; males often sit with tail slightly flared. Males are unmistakable, they're an even glossy black with red-and-yellow shoulder badges. Females are crisply streaked and dark brownish overall, paler on the breast and often show a whitish eyebrow.
Habitat and Distribution
The range of the Red-winged Blackbird stretches from southern Alaska to the Yucatan peninsula in the south, and from the western coast of California and Canada to the east coast of the continent. Northern birds are migratory, spending winters in southern and central US. Their habitats are grassy open areas, wetlands, water marshes, particularly if cattail is present. It is also found in dry upland areas, where it inhabits meadows, prairies, and old fields.
The Red-winged Blackbird is omnivorous. It feeds primarily on plant materials, including seeds from weeds and waste grain such as corn and rice. The Red-winged Blackbird forages for insects by picking them from plants, or by catching them in flight. In season, it eats blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit. These birds can be lured to backyard bird feeders by bread and seed mixtures and suet. In late summer and in autumn, the Red-winged Blackbird will feed in open fields, mixed with grackles, cowbirds, and starlings in flocks which can number in the thousands
The nest is built in cattails, rushes, grasses, sedge, or in alder or willow bushes. The nest is constructed entirely by the female over the course of three to six days. It is a basket of grasses, sedge, and mosses, lined with mud, and bound to surrounding grasses or branches. It is located 7.6 cm (3.0 in) to 4.3 m (14 ft) above water.
Calls and Songs
Their song is described as conk-la-ree! The calls are a throaty check and a high slurred whistle, terrr-eeee.