Bye Redwings

Red-winged Blackbird female (Agelaius phoeniceus)

During most of the Spring season, you need patience and luck to see a female Red-winged Blackbird. When you do see one, she usually has some twigs or straws in her beak for building a nest, or she’s carrying bugs to feed her hatchlings. They work hard and mostly stay out of sight. But last week, the fennel crowns shook with carefree females resting for a few seconds, then dashing off to a new perch, and nobody had beaks full of straw or bugs. I could take more photos of female blackbirds in a few minutes than in the past few months. The cause of their freedom rose out of the greenery as I stalked into their nursery: two dozen or more youngsters, energized blackbird fledglings, careening in a flock like a gang of teenagers, and out of my sight before I could take a picture. The new crop of blackbirds had grown to independence. The females’ work was done.

One male perched low at the fennel’s edge as if looking for a nest, but soon gave up and flew off. One or two other adult males hung around in the crowns with the females, who paid them no attention. Two mornings later, i set up my gear in the center of the blackbird nursery and waited quietly. Not a single redwing, male female or juvenile, made an appearance. A bit later on the edge of the park I may have seen a male, or even two, but they disappeared too quickly to be certain.

It looks like the blackbird breeding season is over for the year. In my impression it started later than usual, involved fewer birds than in past years, and ended earlier than the usual Summer Solstice fly-off date.

In the redwing universe, the genders keep separate flight schedules, and it looks like the juveniles fly separately as well. Where they come from and where they go nobody seems to know, but I’ve seen them at other seasons in marshy areas of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore and in a wildlife refuge in the Delta. This species is among the most studied in the world aviary, based on research conducted at other locations. It would be useful to have a scientific eye on our local populations so that we could better understand their comings and goings, and the reasons for the rise and fall in their numbers.

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One thought on “Bye Redwings

  • hey marty,
    didn’t you previously postulate that cutting too much fennel may have decreased the red wing mating and nesting?

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