The first female Red-winged Blackbirds that I’ve seen this year arrived yesterday. I saw three of them. Since they usually stay low in the foliage, seeing three means there are quite a few more. The males have been waiting for them for weeks. The northwest corner of the park with its fennel thickets will soon turn into a noisy blackbird party scene and then a very serious nesting and brooding enterprise. The new fennel with its dense green foliage seems lower than usual for this time of year, but apparently it offers enough seclusion for nest building. The females will be very busy. They do all the work constructing the nest, brooding, and catching bugs to feed the chicks protein after they hatch. The males will justify their existence by aerial combat against raiding crows that will snatch eggs and hatchlings if they can.
On this female, note the subtle streak of red feathers on her shoulder. I’ve photographed several female red-wings but never noticed this mark before.
Here’s a photo of a different female yesterday, not showing the red: