Red-Winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

The Red-Winged Blackbird ranges year-round over most of the lower 48 states in the USA, but in summer they can breed as far north as northern Canada and even Alaska. Observers believe these birds to be the most numerous birds in North America. They are also the most studied. Male birds can have as many as fifteen mates in a season, and will vigorously defend their territory. There are reports about wintering flocks of a million birds.

Today science recognises twenty-four subspecies of Red-Winged Blackbirds. Some of these races have long migrations, such as A. p. arctolegus, which travel between their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon, and their winter homes in the south-central USA states. Most races of these birds have a more limited migration or stay year-round on their territories.

The Red-Winged Blackbirds I met in mid-March at Aransas NWR were all girls, and no boys insight. I’d forgotten the sexes split into separate groups in winter (bachelors and bachelorettes) until breeding time comes around. By mid-April, when I was in south Texas, I started seeing both sexes loosely associated.

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