Red-winged Blackbirds range across much of North America, from parts of Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada, down through Mexico and into parts of Central America. Though a good portion of the population remains resident year-round, throughout northern parts of their range, they are considered a harbinger of spring. That first “KonkaREE!” heard in the late winter can be music to a birder’s ear. Here are some interesting facts about the Red-winged Blackbird.
1) In several Ojibwa language dialects, the species is called memiskondinimaanganeshiinh, which means roughly “a bird with a very red shoulder-blade”
2) There are at least 22 subspecies of Red-winged Blackbird, most of which look virtually alike
4) While male Red-winged Blackbirds are unmistakeable in the field, sometimes female or juvenile birds pose an identification puzzle. Their streaky bodies resemble some species of sparrow
5) The diet of Red-winged Blackbirds varies; they will eat both insects (more often in the summer) and seeds (more often in the winter). At feeders they will dine on suet and other bird seed; one of their favorites is sunflower seeds
6) Male Red-winged Blackbirds like to play the field. One male may have up to 15 different females nesting in his territory…
7) … which he fiercely defends from intruders. Here a Red-winged Blackbird, weighing no more than 3 ounces, takes on three Sandhill Cranes, which can weigh 10 lbs or more!
Red-winged Blackbird attacks Sandhill Cranes
8) The longevity record for the Red-winged Blackbird is 15 years and 9 months; this is known from bird banding efforts
9) In flight, Red-winged Blackbirds may reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour!!
10) The Red-winged Blackbird is one of the most abundant species found in North America. Their conservation status is Least Concern as of 2012