Montana Outdoors

March 29, 2011


Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — montucky @ 9:40 pm

Red-winged Blackbird

The familiar call and those bright red shoulder patches are present again in our landscape with the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds. As I look at the Range Map by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on their All About Birds website I see that their summer range in Montana corresponds very closely to the normal pattern of the Arctic air that enters the state in winter and suggests to me that may be the reason why they don’t winter here.



  1. That range map also suggests that they are year-round residents of Massachusetts, but I’ve never seen one there before March or after the height of summer…


    Comment by Liane — March 29, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    • I’m not all that confident about the accuracy of most range maps that I’ve seen, but perhaps the birds are sensitive to micro-climate conditions that don’t fit the broad-brush areas of the maps. Thanks for visiting, Liane!


      Comment by montucky — March 29, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  2. Never have I seen a bird like this..I am getting educated here at wordpress.. (:


    Comment by mitambien — March 29, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    • This guy was showing off to get a lady’s attention: usually the red shoulder patches are not that visible. They are most often found in wetlands and just love to be around cattails at the edges of small ponds. Their calls are very distinctive and loud. Once you hear them you will never forget the sound.


      Comment by montucky — March 29, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

  3. Great photo we are just getting them here to.


    Comment by Anonymous — March 30, 2011 @ 5:40 am

    • Thanks. I have always looked forward to hearing their calls, and usually hear them before seeing them.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  4. The Red-winged black bird is somewhat taken for granted here in the valley as they are fairly common year round. We also have Yellow-headed, Brewer’s and Tricolored, but then, I live in an area with large wetlands.

    The song of the Red-winged is the most beautiful, the Yellow-headed the least, in my opinion.

    Spring is definitely here and nesting has begun!


    Comment by anniespickns — March 30, 2011 @ 6:28 am

    • I saw some Yellow-headed ones last summer for the first time and I certainly agree about their calls! Pretty brds though!


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 8:55 am

  5. When I was in upstate NY we would look and listen for the red wing black bird, as they came before the first robins.


    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — March 30, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    • We see them here just a little later than the Robins, probably because the first Robins that visit are just stopping on their way farther north.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 8:59 am

  6. That is a great capture of the red-wing blackbird. I enjoy this bird as well as its call. 🙂


    Comment by Anna — March 30, 2011 @ 8:38 am

    • I liked that shot because he was really showing off. I wish I could have been closer to him though.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  7. Great shot of a beautiful bird! Wow!


    Comment by Barbara — March 30, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  8. what a gorgeous uniform this guy wears! sounds like an interesting call too….


    Comment by silken — March 30, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    • It is pretty, isn’t it! My son called today from a job site and was surprised that I could hear a Red-wing in the background.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  9. Wow, that is a wonderful shot! I see them down in the marsh by the woods on cattails, but have never gotten a good shot of one there. There was on on the ground under my suet feeder on Monday.

    We don’t have them year around, either.


    Comment by sandy — March 30, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    • They love cattails. Over the years I have come to expect them whenever I see cattails. I’ve seen a few come in and get sunflower seeds, but they don’t stay around long.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

  10. No one every said birds are dumb. 🙂

    I enjoyed hearing them a couple of weeks ago when I was out photographing the moon. Thanks for reminding me about Cornell’s lab. They have a nature center next to it I have been meaning to visit.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — March 30, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

    • No, they certainly are not dumb. We can learn much from them about their habitat. I’d love to visit that nature center!


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  11. How true that you usually hear them before seeing them. What a great photograph!


    Comment by farmhouse stories — March 30, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

    • He was really displaying and calling at the same time. Only in spring!


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  12. So beautiful. love the action, the open beak. ANd the seat of fluff.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — March 30, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

    • Typical Red-wing, right down to the cattail he’s standing on.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  13. oh man i do not like these birds. i was playing golf one day and i don’t know whether the crazy thing though i was hitting it’s egg, but it came down and smacked me on top of the head. anyway… nice photograph!


    Comment by kcjewel — March 30, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

    • I’ve never had one buzz me like that, but I’ve read that they are fearless if they consider their nests threatened.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  14. That’s a very handsome bird. I’ve never seen one.


    Comment by Candace — March 30, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

    • They do live in Arizona, at least winter there, but they will be found in marshy areas, especially ones with cattails. It’s quite possible that this guy spent the winter somewhere in your area.


      Comment by montucky — March 30, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  15. Montucky: I love these birds. We have a few that migrate by. When I lived in Amarillo, Texas, they were more of residents than here. That flash of scarlet red is beautiful.


    Comment by Jack Matthews — March 31, 2011 @ 7:56 am

    • I love them too, Jack. I learned their call when I was just a kid and that it meant the coming of spring. It was a very special bird for my mother.


      Comment by montucky — March 31, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  16. These are the birds of my youth and you’ve captured this one exactly as I remember them – sitting atop the cattails.


    Comment by Tammy McLeod — March 31, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  17. Absolutely exquisite capture of this red-winged blackbird. WOW!


    Comment by Marcie — March 31, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

  18. Oh dear. Fantastic photo; I love it. Agelaius phoeniceus or red-winged blackbird is not here. So this great looking bird is new to me. Thank You presenting it.


    Comment by sartenada — March 31, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

    • They are very common all over this country wherever there are wetlands, although it is a treat to see one showing off for the ladies as this one was.


      Comment by montucky — March 31, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

  19. You really got a good photo of that handsome bird showing off. They have been deafening in the morning here! I swear from the sound of them, there must be 100 thousand of them in the marshy pond down the road from us (and there isn’t even cattails there.) I’ve had a few at my feeders this spring eating sunflower seeds and suet.


    Comment by kateri — April 2, 2011 @ 5:35 am

    • I just went over to the web site. I didn’t realize the females are so different looking than the males. I don’t know that I have ever seen a female–I will have to keep my eyes open for them.


      Comment by kateri — April 2, 2011 @ 5:41 am

      • Maybe you HAVE seen them, but not NOTICED them? They are pretty plain in a brown streaky blend-in-with-their-background way, just as a bird that nests in the cattails should be!


        Comment by Kim — April 3, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

    • Yes, they can make noise, and their call is such that it can be easily heard at a distance. We have just a few near the house, but the small ponds and marshy areas are just full of them and their chorus is very loud.


      Comment by montucky — April 4, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  20. What a great shot! We still have way too much snow for our red winged blackbirds to return, yet. They love the marshy wetlands in the area … in a few weeks, they will be calling here, too.


    Comment by bearyweather — April 2, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    • You seem to be having a much longer winter than we are. We must be at just about the same latitude.


      Comment by montucky — April 4, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  21. So many childhood memories are tied in to these birds… Dad was a bird watcher and I swear he could see sideways because he was always the driver and almost always the first to spot the Red-winged Blackbirds hanging out in the cattails growing in the barrow pits along the roadside on our many rambles through the highways and by-ways of Wyoming and Montana. We do have them here but I rarely see them.

    Lovely image… just a perfect reminder of happy memories!


    Comment by Victoria — April 4, 2011 @ 5:15 am

    • I remember them very well from childhood too. Both their appearance and voice make quite an impression, besides their presence in early spring


      Comment by montucky — April 4, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

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