Blog Archive: Blackbirds

Birdorable Red-winged Blackbird

10 Red-winged Blackbird Facts

March 6th, 2014 in Blackbirds, Fun Facts 5 comments

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!

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

Birdorable Bobolink

Fun Bobolink Facts

December 22nd, 2011 in Blackbirds, Fun Facts 2 comments

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!

Birdorable Blackbird

12 Days of Birdorable: Four Calling Birds

December 4th, 2010 in Holidays, Blackbirds, 12 Days of Birdorable 6 comments

On the fourth day of Birdorable, my true love gave to me... 4 Calling Birds. Our 12 Days of Birdorable continues today with Four Calling Blackbirds!

Four Calling Birdorable Blackbirds

The original line in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas" names four colly birds, an alternate word for the Common Blackbird. The Blackbird is a common backyard bird in Europe and has a melodious song. It also lives in Asia, North Africa and it has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand.

Birdorable Blackbird Mug Birdorable Blackbirds T-Shirt
Ringer Mug Kids American Apparel T-Shirt

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!

Birdorable Yellow-headed Blackbird

Baby Birdorable: Yellow-headed Blackbird

November 5th, 2010 in Blackbirds, Baby Birds 3 comments

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr) of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. Yellow-headed Blackbird nests are open cups built using reeds and grasses. These are attached to living or dead tall reeds above water. They nest in the same habitat as Red-winged Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens.

Blackbird Nest
Blackbird Nest by Mountain Mike
We Want Dinner!
We Want Dinner! by BigSkyKatie
Yellow-headed Blackbird (juvenile)
Yellow-headed Blackbird (juvenile) by Robinsegg
Lunch Counter
Lunch Counter by Robinsegg
Juvenile Yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) #3
Juvenile Yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) #3 by Alan Vernon

Pretty cute, right? Be sure to check out our Birdorable Yellow-headed Blackbird t-shirts and gifts!

Birdorable Red-winged Blackbird

Bonanza Bird #14: The Red-winged Blackbird

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?

Birdorable Blackbird

Blackbird the favorite in Holland

January 3rd, 2010 in In the News, Blackbirds, Europe 2 comments

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)