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Red-winged Blackbird
Agelaius phoeniceus



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae

Physical Characteristics

About 7-9.5 inches (18-24 cm) long. The male is black with bright red epaulets. This red is often concealed and only yellow may show around the margin. The female is more brownish in coloration with well defined dark stripings below. She also may have a pinkish tinge around the throat. Both sexes have a sharply pointed bill. Their legs, claws, and beak are dark (Peterson, 1990).


Agelaius phoeniceus tends to live in areas with fresh-water or brackish marshes with bushes and small trees along the water, in uplands, or about open cultivated fields, as well as around plowed fields, pastures, and prairies (American Ornithologists' Union, 1983). The nest is cemented with mud or dung with an inner lining of fin plant fibers, fresh grasses, or hair. Red-winged Blackbirds nest in loose to rather crowded colonies (Leahy, 1982).

Geographic Range

This species is resident from Canada south to the West Indies and Costa Rica (Peterson, 1990)


This omnivorous ground feeder will eat almost any plant or animal matter that it can swallow; however, it does consume more plant than animal matter. The diet often consists of worms, insects, mussels, snails, crayfish, frogs, lizards, bird eggs, nestlings, and seeds (Leahy, 1982).

Reproductive Characteristics

The female usually lays 4-5 (sometimes 3-7) eggs. They are glossy, white to pale blue, green, pinkish, purplish, or brown. they are sparsely to densely speckled (Leahy, 1982).


The Red-Winged Blackbird is gregarious, often traveling and roosting in flocks. Their winter roosts may build up to millions of birds (Fisher and Peterson, 1977). They are often heard as a loud check or a high slurred tee-err. In song a liquid, gurgling konk-la-ree or o-ka-lay is heard (Peterson, 1990).

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.

Fisher, J. and R.T. Peterson. 1977. World of birds. Crescent Books, New York, 191 pp.

Leahy, C. 1982. The birdwatcher's companion: an encyclopedic handbook of North American birdlife. Hill and Wang, New York, 917 pp.

Peterson, R.T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Third ed., Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.

Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.


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