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Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Red-winged Blackbird Photo

One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.

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Backyard Tips

Red-winged Blackbirds may come to your yard for mixed grains and seeds, particularly during migration. Spread grain or seed on the ground as well, since this is where Red-winged Blackbirds prefer to feed.

Find This Bird

You can find Red-winged Blackbirds in the breeding season by visiting cattail marshes and other wetlands, or simply by watching telephone wires on a drive through the country. Where there’s standing water and vegetation, Red-winged Blackbirds are likely to be one of the most common birds you see and hear. Listen for the male’s conk-la-lee! song. In winter, search through mixed-species blackbird flocks and be careful not to overlook the streaky, brown females, which can sometimes resemble a sparrow.

Get Involved

Watch your feeders in winter and report your bird counts to Project FeederWatch

How Red-wings Elude Eavesdroppers

Have you seen Red-winged Blackbirds? Learn how to monitor their nests and report your observations to NestWatch

Visit eBird to explore maps and charts showing where Red-winged Blackbirds are throughout the year. Contribute your sightings!

You Might Also Like

Interpreting Red-winged Blackbird Behavior: Story in BirdScope.

All About Birds blog, Identify the Brown, Streaky, Juvenile Songbirds of Summer With These Tips, July 23, 2014.

Red-winged Blackbird from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1958)