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March 31, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Red-winged Blackbirds Have Returned

While walking on the nature trails last week I could hear the unmistakable call of the male Red-winged Blackbirds. They migrate south of Chicago for the winter but return every spring.

The males were down in the marshy grass making a lot of noise and showing off their bright red and yellow shoulder patches which presumably makes them desirable to the females.

The females were hanging out in the trees watching them. Their coloring is very different from the males. Their brown feathers blend in with the colors of the wetlands where they nest. Soon they will make a decision, choose a mate and the nest construction will begin.

Every year I go back a few months later with my camera hoping to get a photo of the nestlings. I have never been able to get close enough, even with my long lens. The blackbirds are fiercely protective and will first try to distract by calling from a nearby tree, when that doesn’t work the male swoops down at my head and at that point I get the hint and move on. I always wear a big hat when I am trying to photograph nesting birds!


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. cherylmahoney / Mar 31 2012 10:02 am

    Wow, those colors are amazing! And what woman wouldn’t fall for shoulder patches like that? 🙂


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:19 pm

      They are very handsome but the females looked so disinterested, just sitting in the tree, observing.and listening to them.


  2. Kay / Mar 31 2012 10:06 am

    What gorgeous colors! Just amazing what occurs in real life. I can just imagine those birds swooping down on you – you intruder you! LOL


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:17 pm

      I have to sneak in and out quickly with the camera!


  3. Trish / Mar 31 2012 10:18 am

    That male up there looks like he means business! I’ve been swooped on before, too . . . they’re really quite insistent and determined to keep interlopers away.


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:17 pm

      They are tireless when defending their nests. The only other birds I’ve had come at me like that were Barn Swallows and Canada Geese, and the geese will actually bite.


  4. bethtrissel / Mar 31 2012 10:22 am

    Beautiful post. They are back here too on our farm, especially near the pond, and I love them!


  5. Sheila (Book Journey) / Mar 31 2012 10:22 am

    You always have such amazing pics of birds! You should put them in a book!


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:15 pm

      I’m getting quite a collection of them now. I’m thinking maybe create a calendar. Hmmmm.


  6. laurelrainsnow / Mar 31 2012 10:23 am

    I do love the red wings…and you’ve captured the two birds beautifully. Thanks for sharing….



  7. BermudaOnion / Mar 31 2012 12:59 pm

    I’m amazed at how different the male and female look.


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:14 pm

      Until I went on a bird walk I didn’t know that was a female blackbird. And why are birds always named for the male anyway! Eh, that’s rhetorical.


  8. diane / Mar 31 2012 1:02 pm

    I’ve never seen these here — strange. What a capture.


    • Leslie / Mar 31 2012 1:12 pm

      They are all across North America but they tend to stay in the wetlands. I have an occasional one stop by my feeder but you have to look close to see the red patches. They only display them as a mating dance.


  9. wldmtngrl / Mar 31 2012 2:17 pm

    I always learn so much about the birds I see when I’m out walking & biking from you. Never knew there were yellow feathers too. And, never knew the female looked so different from the male. Great shots.


  10. kaye / Mar 31 2012 2:55 pm

    Leslie, I’m always in awe of the photos you take.


  11. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Mar 31 2012 3:03 pm

    Well those birds are completely new to me!


  12. mostraum / Mar 31 2012 3:13 pm

    Great bird photos. Those orange spots are really intense.


  13. Cath / Mar 31 2012 5:33 pm

    I always like looking at bird pics from overseas. They are so different to ours in the UK. Our blackbirds are completely black for instance.


  14. Suko / Mar 31 2012 5:48 pm

    I’m amazed at your ability to capture the beauty of these birds! Wonderful photos, as always.


  15. lisabutterybooks / Mar 31 2012 7:19 pm

    I have never seen a red winged blackbird. Lovely!


  16. Louise / Mar 31 2012 10:34 pm

    I envy you the red wing of your blackbirds. We get the standard, more drab blackbirds here. Those shoulders are lovely. I heard of these birds in the last few years, there was a few mass deaths of these I remember. Lovely pictures, as always, thanks for showing us the male and the female.


  17. Cathy / Apr 1 2012 1:24 am

    Red-Winged Blackbirds have always been a favorite of mine.


  18. lubnafromindia / Apr 1 2012 3:57 am

    I’ve always found it funny that the male species of our feathered friends are more ‘colourful’ so as to attract their spouses. Take for instance the peacock – it sure is glamorous, but the pea hen is drab and unnoticeable. If only that prevailed in our world, would men have to wear eye shadows and lipstick?
    Books and birds, this sure is my kind of blog. I’m glad I landed here while websurfing on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


  19. Paulita / Apr 1 2012 9:24 am

    I always get red-winged blackbird and Orioles confused. I don’t know why. The poor female looks like so many other birds. I guess we need to remember that the female doesn’t need to look terrific because she holds the power. How’d we get that mixed up in the human world?


  20. gautami tripathy / Apr 1 2012 10:15 am

    Enjoyed looking at the photographs!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  21. cbjamess / Apr 1 2012 11:32 am

    I love these guys. We get them all over the place each year, so much so that most people don’t even notice them. I think they’re beautiful.


  22. Fiction-Books (@Fiction_Books) / Apr 2 2012 11:40 pm

    Hi Leslie,

    Great capture on the male bird, he is certainly a handsome looking fellow.

    Our UK blackbirds, are just that ….. The male is a solid black, no colour whatsoever, apart from his yellow beak. The female is more of a solid light brown colouring, not really as ‘mottled’ as your female.

    We have a tree-lined, bridle-way right behind our place and we have several pairs of nesting blackbirds in the trees. Hopefully the cold snap of weather which we are about to experience, won’t throw them too much, they have got so used to the hot Summerlike days, that I fear they have nested a little early.



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