|Red-winged Blackbird males begin to return|
before winter has loosened its grip
I sit in my study, waiting yet another late winter snow storm. But I know that Spring is here. The visual signs are missing, but the auditory signals are certain.
By the still-frozen riverbanks, ponds and marshes, one of the earliest announcer of Spring has been passing through since early March. Nine inches of black feathers, he stretches his neck skyward, opens his pointed bill and belts out nasal, gurgling phrases which can only be called a “song” by another of this species. And as he sings, his wings open in flightless display, and red epaulets flash with sun-drenched brilliance even on the grayest of days. The Red-wing Blackbird has returned.
Some Red-wing Blackbirds may winter as near as the Connecticut coast, but most gather much further south in flocks which may number in the thousands. They wander through farmland, marshes, forest edge and open fields, gleaning whatever food might be available. But even before winter begins to loosen its grip, the males begin moving northward.
|Male Red-winged Blackbirds claim their territory|
when the marsh is still barren
When the drab females come along in another few weeks, the males will have settled their real estate disputes. They’ll be ready to urge one or more females to make a home.
The Red-wing Blackbird does not draw much attention from bird watchers except in March when it is one of the earliest of the summer residents to return. It is a successful and adaptable species. Except during our Vermont winters, there is no shortage. The Red-winged Blackbird is so common that it is easy to overlook its beauty ... and its toughness - it is a scrappy bundle of feathers.
|Male Red-winged Blackbird displays his prowess|
|Female Red-winged Blackbird|
|Nest of Red-winged Blackbird|
“Conk-a-reeee!” I heard the Red-wing’s gargle as I made a few quick birding stops in between my other errands. The sky grew grayer and heavier. The first few flakes of snow began falling. I hurried home to wait out the winter storm. Even so, I know it is Spring!
|Male Red-winged Blackbird aggressively defend their territory|
against rival males and any other intruders
|Female Red-winged Blackbird on her nest|
"Conk-a-reeee!” Good birding!