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Maguire Farm


Red-winged Blackbird
Agelaius phoeniceus


The Red-Winged Blackbird is a passerine bird of the family Icteridae found in most of North and much of Central America. The Blackbird is 1 out of the 11 different speicies in the genus Agelaius and is included in the family Icteridae, which is made up of passerine birds found in North and South America. The common name for the Red-winged Blackbird is taken from the mainly black adult male's distinctive red shoulder patches, or "epaulets", which are visible when the bird is flying or displaying. When the Male is at rest he also shows a yellow wing bar. The female is blackish-brown and paler below. The female is considerably smaller than the male, at 17-18 cm (7 in) length and 36 g (1.2 oz) weight, while the male is 22-24 cm (9.5 in) and 64 g (2.2 oz). Young birds resemble the female, but are paler below and have buff feather fringes. Both male and female have a sharply pointed beaks. The tail is of medium length and is rounded. The eyes, beak, and feet are all black.

The Red-Winged Blackbird can be very aggressive while defending its territory. It will attack much larger birds, such as crows, ravens, magpies, hawks, and osprey and herons if they enter. The have also been known to attack humans.

The call of the Red-winged Blackbird is a throaty check and a high slurred whistle. The male's song is scratchy and is displayed with a his red shoulder patches.

When the breeding season is over, Red-winged Blackbirds gather in huge flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions.

The Red-winged Blackbird is omnivorous. It feeds primarily on plant materials, including seeds from weeds and waste grain such as corn and rice, but about a quarter of its diet consists of insects and other small animals, and more so during breeding season. It prefers insects, such as dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, and flies, but also eats snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders, mollusks. The Red-winged Blackbird forages for insects by picking them from plants, or by catching them in flight. When in season, it eats blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit. These birds can be lured to backyard bird feeders by bread, seed mixtures and suet. In late summer and in autumn, the Red-winged Blackbird will feed in open fields, mixed with grackles, cowbirds, and starlings in flocks which can number in the thousands.

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