Red-Winged Blackbird: Dr J Murray Speirs

male Red-winged Blackbird (photo: Ian Valentine)

Cattail marshes are the preferred habitat of nesting Red-winged Blackbirds in Ontario, but this is an adaptable species and many now nest in old fields and shrubbery. Large flocks sometimes descend on corn crops in late summer and may do considerable damage if not frightened off. When our marshes freeze over in late fall, most of our birds go south to winter from South Carolina to northern Florida, but a few are found near feeding stations in southern Ontario through the winter and some glean corn after the harvest.

female Red-winged Blackbird (photo: Ian Valentine)

IDENTIFICATION: Males are mainly black with prominent scarlet “shoulder” patches, often bordered with yellow. Females are smaller than males and are striped birds with dull orange throats. The usual song of the territorial males  is a rich “o-ka-lee”. Both males and females have a rich vocabulary of shrill whistles and clucks and may vigorously attack when their nests are approached.

DIET: mainly seeds and insects

BREEDING: lay 3, 4 or sometimes 5 eggs. Incubated by the female alone and hatch after 11 or 12 days. Chicks leave the nest 11 – 14 days after hatching.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

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