Through Looking Glass of Val Lee – Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Black Bird (male) @ Val Lee

My husband and I were surprised to hear the Red-winged Blackbirds when we strolled through the park last week. It seems early for them to be migrating to their spring and summer romping grounds. We are still in the midst of freezing weather. We have noticed a few other early bird arriving species as well. Where we have a small population of Canadian Geese all winter, they are now arriving in large formations, covering our southern winter skies at times.

The Red-winged male Blackbird reveals red on its wing, underlined with a yellow bar, as you can see from my photo. The female is nondescript dark brown. This black silken avis proclaims a long explosive call—a throaty “check” and a high slurred whistle, “terrr-eeee.”

My video captures their outstretched trilling:

It sometimes gets on my nerves, being slightly annoying, as it seems to never stop with many singing the tune. It breaks out in a continuous rhythmic long note; being loudly pronounced, carried on the outdoor airwaves to one another. God certainly equipped it with a unique call. All of His aves can be personally identified by their speech patterns. Humans also own a personal unique makeup. No one in the world can perfectly match up. We can be identified through our fingerprints and DNA structure. If our DNA body strands were stretched in sequence, they would reach the sun and back, 400 times. Earth to sun is 93 million miles. It amazes me to consider the complexity of man and beast.

Red-winged Blackbird (male) @ Val Lee

Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s expressions of love for the human race. When we understand our complexity, how can we begin to deny it? If God didn’t love us, He would not have formed each of us so distinctively and marvelously. He would not have bothered to give us limbs and a brain, let alone the breath of life.

I, at times, feel sorry for our Blue Herons that enjoy our wildlife park, as the tenacious red wingers will group and attack them when angling. They can be most cruel and relentless, harassing this large blue bird. They even follow the Herons, never-ceasing, always stalking and attacking. If the Heron settles in to fish elsewhere, they swoop and bombard again and again. I have never witnessed a Blue Heron avenging; it simply travels on. I guess the blues venture too close to the redwingers’ nests. These Blackbirds are even known to attack humans who approach their nesting areas, though I have not personally observed this.

Red-winged Blackbird @ Val Lee

I have surveyed the fact, Red-winged Blackbirds are water lovers. They enjoying being in cattails from which they often perch. This seems to be the best setting for our observation of them.

The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a passerine bird (perching bird—half of all birds make up the passerine bird populace). This Blackbird is located in most of North and Central America. It breeds from Alaska, Newfoundland, south to the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and Guatemala. It may winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia. However, northern populations are generally migratory, moving south to Mexico and the southern US. These birds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on plant materials, including seeds, berries, weeds, corn and rice. About a quarter of its diet consists of insects and other small animals. In late summer and in autumn, the Red-winged Blackbird will feed in open fields.

These birds can be drawn to bird feeders using bread, seed mixtures and suet.

My video of the female—puffed out and calling out:

Their average length is 8 inches, with a 14 inch average wingspan.

The Red-winged Blackbird is polygamous, with territorial males defending up to 10 females. Pairs raise two or three clutches per season, in a new nest for each clutch. Nesting takes place in loose colonies. The nest is constructed entirely by the female over the course of three to six days. It is a nice basket of grasses, rush plants, and mosses, lined with mud, and bound to surrounding grasses, or branches. Nests are so amazing and it is phenomenal to contemplate on the fact our LORD Jesus Christ implanted in birds the wisdom to construct, thinking of the arriving young and their needs.

Red-winged Blackbird (female) @ Val Lee

A nest is located 3 inches to 14 feet above water.

One nest (which are around 7 inches deep and 5 inches across) was separated, piece by piece by a birding enthusiast in the 1930s. He found it had been weaved of 34 strips of willow bark and 142 cattail leaves—as long as 2 feet. Simply amazing weaver-work!

A clutch comprises three or four eggs—being oval, smooth, slightly glossy, and measure 1 x .7 inches. They are pale bluish-green, marked with brown, purple, or black, with most markings around the larger end of the egg. Incubation is performed by the female, and eggs hatch in 11 to 12 days. The young fledge in 11 to 14 days.

Red-winged Blackbird (female) @ Val Lee

When breeding season is over, Red-winged Blackbirds gather in huge flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions. This is true of many aves.

Their average lifespan is 15 years.

In portions of America, these Blackbirds are considered pests because flocks can consume large amounts of cultivated grain and rice.


Regarding the dead bird incident of 5,000 birds falling from the skies of Arkansas on January 1, 2011, the latest news reveals nothing more than speculation regarding the Redwing Blackbirds. Sources stated there was no poison found in the birds. I wonder if we will ever know the reason for the death of the birds and the 100,000 drum fish.

*Some info from Wikipedia and other web sources.

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