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

3) The Red-winged Blackbird is in the Icteridae family of birds, which also includes Brown-headed Cowbirds, Grackles, and Orioles

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

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

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!

apulets
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

Fun Bobolink Facts

Have you ever seen a Bobolink? Here are some fun facts about these striking prairie birds!

Birdorable Bobolink

1. One nickname given to the Bobolink is "skunk blackbird." The breeding plumage of males is distinctive in North America; it is the only bird with a black front and white back.

2. Bobolinks have two other nicknames, both food-related, in their migration and wintering grounds. They are called "butterbirds" in Jamaica, where they are captured during migration and consumed by locals as food. In South America, they may be considered pests, where they feast on fields of grain. Here they are called "ricebirds."

3. The mechanical-sounding call of the Bobolink is sung by the males during spring, often in flight. Here is what it sounds like:

4. Bobolinks molt their feathers twice a year, which is unusual for a songbird. One molt occurs after breeding and before migration; the other molt occurs on the wintering grounds. Males change their appearance drastically. They go from the striking "skunkbird" black and white to more muted coloring and resemble the female bird, seen below.

Bobolink, female
Bobolink, female by Kelly Colgan Azar

5. A group of Bobolinks is called a chain.

6. Bobolinks are known to be extraordinary migrants. They breed across much of the northern half of the United States and into parts of Canada. During the fall, the birds travel down to south-central South America, a journey that may span over 12,000 miles round trip!

7. The Bobolink has been celebrated by several American poets. Emily Dickinson wrote The Way to know the Bobolink. And here is a verse from William Cullen Bryant's Robert of Lincoln:

Robert of Lincoln’s Quaker wife, Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings, Passing at home a quiet life, Broods in the grass while her husband sings: Bob-o’-l ink, bob-o’-link, Spink, spank, spink; Brood, kind creatures; you need not fear Thieves and robbers while I am here. Chee, chee, chee.

8. The Bobolink was added to Birdorable in 2011. Be sure to check out our great collection of Bobolink t-shirts & gifts!

4 Birdorable calling Blackbirds

On the fourth day of Birdorable, a melodious chorus filled the air... 4 Calling Blackbirds! As our festive 12 Days of Birdorable journey unfolds, today we spotlight the Four Calling Blackbirds, a charming addition that brings the classic "The 12 Days of Christmas" carol to life with an avian twist.

Diving into the original "Four Calling Birds" verse—historically referred to as "four colly birds," with "colly" meaning black as coal—it's the Common Blackbird that takes center stage in our celebration. This bird, with its glossy black plumage in males and rich, brown tones in females, is a familiar sight in gardens across Europe, known for its beautiful and varied song.

The Common Blackbird, a species that thrives not only in Europe but also across Asia, North Africa, and in introduced populations in Australia and New Zealand, is celebrated for its melodious calls and songs. These birds have a special place in the hearts of bird enthusiasts and casual listeners alike, bringing the sounds of nature closer to home with their rich musical repertoire.

As we delight in the presence of these Four Calling Blackbirds on this fourth day of Birdorable, let their songs remind us of the joy and beauty that birds bring into our lives. May their calls lead you to discover the rich tapestry of bird song that surrounds us, a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

This is the fourth day of our 12 Days of Birdorable holiday event. Previously featured were:

Over the next 8 days we will post another Birdorable bird for our 12 Days of Birdorable. Be sure to check back each day for this fun event!

Cute Blackbird Gifts

Birdorable Red-winged Blackbird

For 18 days we're adding a new Birdorable bird every day as part of our Birdorable Bonanza 2010. Today's bird is the Red-winged Blackbird. Red-winged Blackbirds are closely related to orioles and grackles. Here in northern Illinois, where we live, Red-winged Blackbirds are an early sign of spring. They return to nest in our county each after spending the winter further south. Hearing the first Red-winged Blackbirds calling on territory with their distinctive "konkaREE!" cry always means warmer weather is on the way soon.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird by Gary Grossman
 
What a Display!
What a Display! by vtpeacenik

Tomorrow's bird is an aerial forager who nests in cavities. Can you guess what it is?

Red-winged Blackbird Gifts

The Dutch radio program Vroege Vogels ("Early Birds") surveyed about 5000 people to find the favorite bird song in the Netherlands. The Blackbird came out on top, beating #2 Nightingale (Nachtegaal), #3 Song Thrush (Zanglijster), and 97 other Dutch birds. The entire list, including a photo of each bird and a sample of its song, can be found here: Dutch Bird Top 100. It's a neat way to see some of the most common birds of the Netherlands and hear what they sound like! We've got quite a few European birds here at Birdorable, including several of the Dutch favorites. Here are a few of them. The Dutch names are listed below.

#1 Merel (Blackbird) #4 Roodborst (Robin) #5 Winterkoning (Winter Wren) #10 Putter (European Goldfinch) #15 Vink (Chaffinch) #21 Kievit (Northern Lapwing) #26 Pimpelmees (Blue Tit) #56 IJsvogel (Common Kingfisher)

Birdorable Yellow-headed Blackbird

One of the latest additions to Birdorable is the Yellow-headed Blackbird. This striking 8.5-inch blackbird is unmistakable with its yellow head and breast. You can find it across North America and especially in freshwater cattail marshes west of the Great Lakes. Each spring, enormous flocks of yellowheads migrate from Mexico and the southern United States northward to their nesting territories in western North America. You'll often see them hanging out with Red-winged Blackbirds, but the yellowheads are larger and dominant over the redwings. Here's a nice picture of both species flocking together:

Blackbirds
Photo by hcgregory

The Yellow-headed Blackbird is a handsome bird, but it isn't afraid of getting its beautiful plumage dirty. Check out these pictures by Rick Wright in Arizona of yellowheads hanging out with cows in the mud.

Flats January 31, 2007 001
This and next photo by Rick Wright
Flats January 31, 2007 004

This is our cute Birdorable version of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. For more than 170 other Birdorable birds see the Meet the Birds page.

Cute Birdorable Yellow-headed Blackbird Gifts