Song Birds - Sounds Wild
Red Wing Blackbirds


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Red-winged Blackbird

Perched above a shallow tidal slough, a black bird with striking red shoulder patches announces his claim to a territory, a cluster of shoreside reeds. It's a red-winged blackbird, one of the most widespread birds in North America and probably the most abundant bird on the continent.

Red-winged Blackbirds range from Alaska to Mexico and are found year-round in all of the lower 48 states. Red-winged blackbirds in Alaska are migratory, nesting in Alaska and wintering in the southern United States and Central America.

They nest in wetlands, and both freshwater and saltwater marshes. Breeding surveys in some refuges show redwing blackbird to be triple and quadruple the number of other common breeding songbirds like vireos, robins and sparrows.

Red-winged blackbirds are doubly well-named. The common name is descriptive, and the genus name, ah-jeh-LAY-us, means "belonging to a flock." While pairs are territorial during the breeding season, for most of the year they form enormous flocks that can number hundreds of thousands of birds, and night roosts can number in the millions. One winter roost in Dismal Swamp, Virginia was estimated at 15 million birds. An estimate in the winter of 1984 put the North American population at 190 million birds, making red-winged blackbirds the most abundance bird species in North America.