Females Arrive

Red-winged Blackbird female (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Party time at the Red-winged Blackbird habitat in the northwest corner of the park began last week with the arrival of females. Males have been in residence for weeks. Females travel separately and arrive later. What exactly governs the females’ timing isn’t obvious, but it may have something to do with warm weather and enough vegetation growth to conceal nests. To date, the dense new fennel remains quite low, hardly knee high in most places. The birds won’t nest in the bare old fennel stalks; they don’t offer enough seclusion and shelter.

When the females arrive in numbers, the fennel forest in the northwest corner and along the northwestern ridge rings with the males’ outcries, meant to warn off other males as much as to attract the females. Females also sing. The birds can create quite a bedlam. So far, however, only two or three females have been spotted, and the one I photographed above showed no interest in mating. The blackbird breeding season is not yet fully underway. As evidence, here’s a snapshot from a video of two males peacefully sharing the crown of a bush; if any females were receptive to mating, the males would be fighting, not sharing.

Red-winged Blackbird males (Agelaius phoeniceus)

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