Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Red-winged Blackbird

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Icteridae | [latin] Agelaius phoeniceus | [UK] Red-winged Blackbird | [FR] Carouge a epaulettes | [DE] Rotschulter-Starling | [ES] Tordo alirrojo | [NL] Epauletspreeuw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Agelaius phoeniceus NA, MA widespread
Agelaius phoeniceus aciculatus
Agelaius phoeniceus arctolegus
Agelaius phoeniceus arthuralleni
Agelaius phoeniceus brevirostris
Agelaius phoeniceus bryanti
Agelaius phoeniceus californicus
Agelaius phoeniceus caurinus
Agelaius phoeniceus floridanus
Agelaius phoeniceus fortis
Agelaius phoeniceus grinnelli
Agelaius phoeniceus gubernator
Agelaius phoeniceus littoralis
Agelaius phoeniceus mailliardorum
Agelaius phoeniceus mearnsi
Agelaius phoeniceus megapotamus
Agelaius phoeniceus nelsoni
Agelaius phoeniceus neutralis
Agelaius phoeniceus nevadensis
Agelaius phoeniceus nyaritensis
Agelaius phoeniceus phoeniceus
Agelaius phoeniceus richmondi
Agelaius phoeniceus sonoriensis

Physical charateristics

Male: Black, with bright red epaulets, most conspicuous in spring display. Much of the time the scarlet is concealed and only the yellowish margin shows. Immature male:
Sooty brown, mottled, but with red shoulders. Female: Brownish, with a sharply pointed bill, “blackbird” appearance, and well-defined dark stripings
below; may have pinkish tinge around throat. Gregarious, traveling and roosting in flocks. One race, the “Bicolored Blackbird” of central California, has solid red epaulets without the yellow border.

Listen to the sound of Red-winged Blackbird

[audio: Blackbird.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 31 cm wingspan max.: 40 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 23 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 11 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Middle America : widespread


Breeds in marshes, brushy swamps, hayfields; forages also in cultivated land and along edges of water. Breeds most commonly in freshwater
marsh, but also in wooded or brushy swamps, rank weedy fields, hayfields, upper edges of salt marsh. Often forages in other open habitats, such as fields and mudflats; outside the breeding season, flocks gather in farm fields, pastures, feedlots.


To defend his territory and attract a mate, male perches on high stalk with feathers fluffed out, lifts leading edge of wing so that red shoulder patches are prominent, and sings. One male often has more than one mate. Adults ar
e very aggressive in nesting territory, attacking larger birds that approach and loudly protesting human intruders.
Placed in marsh growth such as cattails or bulrushes, in bushes or saplings close to water, or in dense grass in fields. Nest (built by female) is bulky open cup, lashed to standing vegetation, made of grass, reeds, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine gras
Eggs: 3-4, rarely 2-6. Pale blue-green, with markings of black, brown, purple concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 10-12 days.
Young: Both parents feed nestlings (but female does more). Young leave nest about 11-14 days after hatching.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects and seeds.
Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and others; also spiders, millipedes, snails. Majority of adult’s annual diet (roughly three-fourths) is seeds, including those of
grasses, weeds, and waste grain. Also eats some berries and small fruits.
Behavior: Forages mostly while walking on ground; also sometimes up in shrubs and trees. Outside the breeding season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other blackbirds and starlings.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Red-winged Blackbird status Least Concern


Canada to West Indies, Costa Rica.
b Migration: Present throughout the year in many areas. In the north, migrants appear quite early in spring, with males arriving before females. Migrates in flocks.

Distribution map

Red-winged Blackbird distribution range map

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