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June 8, 2013 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Nesting Red-winged Blackbirds

One of the more familiar North American birds is the Red-winged Blackbird. The males are a bold, glossy black with red and yellow wing patches. Females are dark brownish with a white eyebrow and resemble a large sparrow. The male is the more vocal of the two tirelessly calling out his song from a conspicuous point while the female spends her time in the vegetation building the nest.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

The blackbirds typically build their nests in wet places along waterways, ponds and marshes and even wet areas along roads. Early in May I watched this pair build their nest in a small pond.

The female was doing most of the work selecting and carrying plant material to weave into a nest. She will then line the nest with mud to form a cup and add a bed of dry grass.

Male Red-winged Blackbird

The male will spend most of the breeding season singing and defending his territory, fiercely if needed. He will chase out other blackbirds, predators and even people.

The male is highly polygynous and will have more than one female nesting in his territory. They have been known to have up to 15 females. I saw two females here but only one was building a nest while I was watching.

Red-winged Blackbird Nest

This is the completed nest. I took this photo about three weeks ago. More of the marsh has since grown in and it’s difficult to see what is happening in the nest. Any day now I should begin seeing young blackbirds.

Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. For the summer it will be hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Brona / Jun 8 2013 4:42 am

    Your bird shots are amazing Leslie. Such lovely stillness in these ones today. It makes me catch my breath, let out a big sigh, calm down and relax. Thank you 🙂


  2. brokencookiesdontcount / Jun 8 2013 5:26 am

    I never knew that the female looked different from the male red winged black bird! I might have been seeing them all along and didn’t know. Love your photos!


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:15 pm

      The females tend to hide in the brush while the males are busy singing and drawing attention to themselves.


  3. Louise / Jun 8 2013 6:26 am

    The male blackbirds are extraordinary. I love their epaulettes. I’ve seen pictures of them before, but never seen a female, let alone a nest. Great as always Leslie.


  4. drbethnolan / Jun 8 2013 6:50 am

    beautiful pictures!! I love how you get so close up. thanks for sharing!


  5. laurelrainsnow / Jun 8 2013 7:20 am

    That female with the “nesting material” in her beak looks very adept at her task. It always amazes me how much you can capture with your camera! Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST


  6. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jun 8 2013 7:30 am

    They don’t even look like the same species. Those lucky males, always so stunning – no wonder they get all of the females:)


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:36 pm

      Usually the difference between the sexes are a little more subtle. This is pretty dramatic.


  7. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jun 8 2013 8:36 am

    How fun to be able to watch the babies coming!


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:18 pm

      The babies are always fun to watch and maybe I can get some photos. Sometimes the parents object and dive-bomb my head … they can be quite insistent that I move on!


  8. BermudaOnion / Jun 8 2013 8:58 am

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before. Birds built a nest on our front porch and then abandoned it. Yesterday, I saw a bird on the nest again. I’m not sure what’s up with that.


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:21 pm

      That is a little weird. A lot of songbirds raise two broods per summer so there’s still time to use this nest.


  9. Diana Leigh / Jun 8 2013 9:54 am

    Amazing photos! Also – wow! Up to 15 females at once? That would be one busy and tired blackbird. Here’s my Saturday Snapshot.


  10. joyweesemoll / Jun 8 2013 1:18 pm

    Those are stunning photos. I don’t think I knew what a female red-winged blackbird looked like. Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out now.


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:27 pm

      The only places I see the females are near the nesting sites so they’re a little more difficult to find. The males seem to be everywhere. I had one in my backyard at the feeder yesterday. I’ve never had a female in my yard.


  11. mdott922 / Jun 8 2013 4:10 pm

    These are great! My daughter is really into birds right now, so I’ll be sure to share these with her!


  12. irene / Jun 8 2013 6:50 pm

    I love the way the male looks, but I must say I truly have not seen a female, I look more carefully. Thanks for all your info.


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:39 pm

      The females don’t sing so it makes it even harder to find them. I usually only see them near the nest sites. If you see males singing in a marshy area look around for a quiet brown bird and that will probably be the female.


  13. gautami tripathy / Jun 8 2013 8:56 pm

    Great photos!!

    Here is my snapshot post


  14. samstillreading / Jun 9 2013 3:19 am

    What gorgeous pics! Love the one of the nest.


  15. postingfornow / Jun 9 2013 7:09 am

    I know the birds are building nests – it is such a thrill when I actually catch sight of one. Thanks for your photos.


    • Leslie / Jun 9 2013 10:41 pm

      It’s always exciting to find a nest. When I walk the trails I take notes when I find a nest so I can go back and try to get photos of the babies… if the parents will let me!


  16. Wrighty / Jun 10 2013 10:43 am

    You take such beautiful photos! The Red-winged Blackbird was one of the first that i remember learning about as a kid. I always enjoy learning even more here! 🙂


  17. Vicki / Jun 10 2013 5:46 pm

    Love them, especially the first one! Wonderful capture!
    Here’s My SS


  18. MarthaE / Jun 14 2013 9:56 pm

    These are such wonderful photos and the baby feeding in the next post is fabulous! Thanks for sharing.


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