Red-winged Blackbirds abound around our pond. They are described as residing in most of the lower 48 states year round. However, I rarely see them here in winter. In autumn I often see them flocking in large numbers, sometimes including Brown-headed cowbirds and other species in the taller, mature trees around our property. Those large flocks tend to move out of the area together as the weather gets colder. In Spring it’s very obvious when they are both migrating through our area heading north, as well as arriving to spend the summer here at our place. It’s an interesting concept to ponder; why do some birds of the same species continue north and others stop here for their breeding season? My biologist background says that such diversity offers an increased survival rate when/if the species experiences acute or long-term shifts in the environment.

In my childhood I learned to recognize the Red-winged blackbird’s distinctive “trill-tweet” (that’s my description – the experts have another way to describe the sound.) Hearing that song brings back memories of my small-town-on-the-edge-of-cornfields upbringing and reminds me that I must be close to nature.

Red-winged blackbirds prefer to nest around cattail marshes and other wetlands. We have a small patch of cattails in a shallow inlet of our pond. Catching an image of one perched atop a cattail makes me happy.

Below is a female Red-winged Blackbird. As is the case in many bird species, the female dons a more camouflage color. She makes a nest quite near the ground, or on the ground. Having drab markings keeps her safe. However, if you look closely, her feathers are richly diverse in shades of brown, sedge and even a bit of red on her shoulders.

This bird flew from a small tree (photo above) to perch in the spent cattails from last autumn. It reminded me that some birds, like the Eastern Kingbird, will pluck some of that cottony cattail fluff to line its nest. Last summer I observed that behavior and I have a goal this year to catch it on film this year!

This female Red-winged Blackbird was vocalizing, but not with the song of her male counterpart. It was a far less overstated melody. I think she’s beautiful and I hope she’s here to stay to raise a brood or two this season.

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