In the past, I haven't paid much attention to blackbirds. Recently, however, I've acquired an interest in all of our local birds. A sudden flash of color grabbed my attention and I focused in on this blackbird. I later did some research and discovered that he is a Red-winged blackbird, common to our state.
The male Red-winged blackbird is hard to mistake. Look for red and yellow shoulder badges upon an even, glossy black body. On the other hand, the female of this species looks nothing like the male- she is dark brown overall with crisp streaks. Though I haven't photographed a female yet, I did capture only one decent image of a male...because it is winter, his red shoulder badge is barely visible. During breeding season, his shoulder badges are prominent and colorful.
According to articles I've read, the Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, meaning males have many female mates – up to 15 in some cases. In some populations 90 percent of territorial males have more than one female nesting on their territories. But all is not as it seems: one-quarter to one-half of nestlings turn out to have been sired by someone other than the territorial male.
Also, the males fiercely defend their territories during the breeding season, spending more than a quarter of daylight hours in territory defense. He chases other males out of the territory and attacks nest predators, sometimes going after much larger animals, including horses and people. Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost in the wetlands where the birds breed. Winter flocks can be congregations of several million birds, including other blackbird species and starlings. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night.
This video shows how male Red-winged Blackbirds appear during breeding season- they look like they could be pretty darn aggressive, especially when they get all puffed up and belch out their loud calls!
Video by The Music of Nature on YouTube