Agelaius Phoeniceus – Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius Phoeniceus - Red-winged Blackbird found in the US

The red-winged blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus is a passerine bird found in North and Central America. There are isolated populations in western El Salvador, northern Honduras and northwestern Costa Rica. Northern populations winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia, but migrate south to Mexico and the southern US. Wintering red-winged blackbird loose groups can number in excess of a million birds each flock, and the total number of breeding pairs over North and Central America may surpass 250 million in peak years. It’s also one of the world’s most studied wild birds.

Quick Overview: Agelaius Phoeniceus – Red-winged Blackbird
Body size: Around 7.5-9.5 in (19-24 cm) and a weight of 65 g (2.3 oz)
Main colors: Black, Red, Yellow, Pink, Brown
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Red-winged Blackbird Description

Males are easily identifiable by their glossy black feathers and red and yellow epaulets on the shoulder. Pinkish females with black bands on their undersides. Females resemble big sparrows and have off-white brow patterns. Dark legs and claws on both sexes. Male red-winged blackbirds have a completely black beak, but females have a dark brown beak with a lighter brown underside. Males and females have angular beaks.

Agelaius Phoeniceus - Red-winged Blackbird found in the US
Agelaius Phoeniceus – Red-winged Blackbird. Photo by: Harry Colquhoun

Size

These birds have a length of 7.5-9.5 in (19-24 cm) and a weight of 65 g (2.3 oz). Their wings could range from 12-14.5 in (30-37 cm).

Feeding

Red-winged blackbirds are generalist eaters, eating more plant tissue during the non-breeding season and more animal material during the breeding season. Red-winged blackbirds eat seeds and agricultural goods like maize and rice but will eat nearly any plant material. Adult red-winged blackbirds eat snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, and other arthropods. The favorite arthropods include Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Diptera (true flies).

Habitat

Red-winged blackbirds prefer marshes to roost and reproduce. They are found in both fresh and saltwater marshes. On drier land, red-winged blackbirds prefer open fields and lightly forested deciduous woods. Red-winged blackbirds spend the winter on open fields and croplands.

Behavior

Red-winged blackbirds are migratory birds, like other migratory birds. They are powerful flyers that move in thousands. It results in big, centralized populations. The diurnal red-winged blackbird spends most of the day foraging. Mating season males defend territory. During the mating season, men and females spend more time in their own or their mate’s territory. Fighting among red-winged blackbirds, even among males, is known to occur.

Agelaius Phoeniceus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Icteridae
  • Genus: Agelaius
  • Species: Agelaius phoeniceus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Red-winged Blackbird in the USA

Breeds from Alaska to Newfoundland, and south to northern Baja California, central Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida. Winters in the northern United States, mostly in British Columbia, the Great Lakes, and Pennsylvania.

The Red-winged Blackbird can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Agelaius Phoeniceus – Red-winged Blackbird

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