Red-winged Blackbirds… And Their Nests
Red-winged Blackbirds are found in most of North and much of Central America, and are familiar sights in our wetlands. There have been claims that it is the most abundant, and most well studied bird in North America. The males, glossy black with scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches, puff up or hide depending on their level of confidence. In our marshes, they’re quite brave (or protective, in defense-mode), doing as much as they can to get noticed, and belting out their conk-la-ree songs.
The female is a subdued brown, with streaks of lighter colorations — and much shyer than her male counterpart. Her brownish coloring serves to camouflage her and the nest, while she’s incubating. Females stay low in the vegetation, searching for food (eating primarily seeds and insects), and weaving their amazing nests. Constructed entirely over the course of three to six days — with no help from the males — the nests are located in cattails, rushes, grasses, or in alder or willow bushes. Located near the water’s surface, the nest is a basket constructed of grasses, sedge, and mosses, lined with mud and bound to surrounding grasses or branches. I’ve watched for nearly an hour in awe, as a female patiently gathered her grasses — and even longer as another intricately wove her basket-nest. It’s beautifully mesmerizing (and believe me, I’m no birdwatching crackerjack!). Red-winged Blackbirds nest in loose colonies, and their predators include snakes, raccoons, and other birds, even the small marsh wrens — and in our area, iguanas. Males serve as sentinels to guard the nest, using various calls to denote the type and severity of danger.
This clutch consists of three eggs — typical for the species (2 to 4). They’re oval and smooth, of a pale bluish coloring, and marked with brown and/or black markings. The eggs are incubated by the female alone, and will hatch within 11 to 12 days. Red-winged Blackbirds are born blind and naked, but are ready to leave the nest 11 to 14 days after hatching.
More pictures of the most amazing and lovely Blackbirds: