Red-Winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus
Range Map

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.

Depending on what source you believe, today’s science recognises 20~24 subspecies of Red-Winged Blackbirds:

  • A. p. phoeniceus breeds from southeastern Alaska east through northwestern and central Canada to the Maritime Provinces, and south to eastern-central Arizona east to southern Georgia. They spend winters across eastern North America.
  • A. p. caurinus lives along the coast from southern British Columbia south to California.
  • A. p. mailliardorum lives along the central coast of California.
  • A. p. neutralis lives in San Diego County and northern Baja California (Mexico).
  • A. p. californicus lives in the Central Valley of California.
  • A. p. aciculatus lives in mountain valleys of south-central California.
  • A. p. nevadensis lives in southern British Columbia south through Washington and northern Idaho to central California and southern Nevada.
  • A. p. sonoriensis lives in southeastern California and southern Nevada east to central Arizona and south to northern Baja California and Sonora (Mexico).
  • A. p. megapotamus lives from central Texas south to southeastern Coahuila and northern Veracruz.
  • A. p. littoralis lives on the Gulf slope from central Texas east to the Florida panhandle.
  • A. p. mearnsi lives on most of the Florida peninsula.
  • A. p. floridanus lives in southern Florida and the Florida Keys.
  • A. p. nyaritensis lives from southwestern Mexico to northern Central America.
  • A. p. gubernator lives in central Mexico.
  • A. p. nelsoni lives in south-central Mexico.
  • A. p. grinnelli lives in northern Central America.
  • A. p. richmondi lives from central Veracruz (Mexico) south to the Gulf slope of northern Costa Rica.
  • A. p. arthuralleni lives in Guatemala.
  • A. p. pallidulus lives in the northern Yucatán (Mexico).
  • A. p. bryanti lives in the Bahamas.

The Red-Winged Blackbirds I met in mid-March at Aransas NWR were all girls with no boys in sight. 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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