Species Profile: Red-Winged Blackbird

We often see them dancing on telephone wires or hear their song as spring returns. The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is one of the most common birds in North America, with a distribution connecting coast-to-coast in southern Canada. As is often the case in nature, the sleek black body and vibrant red and yellow feathers of male blackbirds overshadow the brown-black feathers of its female counterparts. Like human teenagers, young male Red-winged Blackbirds undergo an awkward transitional stage as their plumage shifts from pale to buff, black feathers. Their cheery tunes (some say it sounds like they sing “Purple TEE-shirt!!!”) and bright colours make the Red-winged Blackbird one of the most recognized birds in North America.

This week, the selected photographer, Jay Black of Vancouver, has captured this bird in its most natural habitat: wetlands. With stunning picture quality, Jay has showcased a male Red-winged Blackbird as it delicately stands atop of a lily pad. This shot was taken at Beaver Lake in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

Many of our readers have likely been prey to a swooping Red-winged Blackbird when walking near their nesting habitat. The males, especially, are very defensive of their territory. These birds may be spotted throughout British Columbia, but most are found in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. Their populations are mostly migratory, however, there have been reports in the Puget Sound Lowland of year-round populations. They prefer marsh habitat with Cattails (Typha sp.) for nesting and perching. They are an important food source for many other wetland inhabitants, including mink and a variety of raptors. They also prey on insects we commonly see around wetlands such as dragonflies and snails.

Thank you to Jay for this fantastic image! If you’d like to see more of his work you can see his Flickr page.  To take a look at our growing collection of BC Wetland images or to add your own photographs to it, click here.

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