Her Decision

Red-winged Blackbird female (Agelaius phoeniceus)

There’s plenty of males, there’s a heap of nesting material, the new fennel in a few places may be high enough to conceal a nest, and there’s plenty of bug protein to feed hatchlings. But whether she mates, and with whom, is up to the female. These blackbirds may be what humans call promiscuous in their mating habits, but they appear to operate by consent. Consent is not the rule in some other species, notoriously the Mallards, where males, sometimes in gangs, force themselves on isolated females. Such behavior is not reported among Red-winged Blackbirds.

So far, the Spring season in the Red-winged Blackbird area of the park is off to a slow start. The female in the video above hung out on the western edge of the hilltop where the Peace Symbol is located. This is a good spot for foraging, as the abundance of wildflowers (mostly Wild Radish) hosts a variety of bugs. But it’s not a good spot for nest building, as there’s not much fennel left standing there. The males perch on the tops of the fennel bushes a hundred yards further east, and that’s where the mating action happens, if it’s going to happen.

Mating is a life-changer for the females. They’re the ones who are going to build the nest, lay the eggs, brood on them, and do all or most of the feeding when they hatch. The males continue to tweet from the brush tops, but will rise in aerial combat if a crow or a raptor approaches to steal eggs.

This day I saw no other females than the one in the video, and only a handful of males. In much of the usual breeding territory, the new fennel is barely human-knee high, probably not tall enough for nest building. It may be a week or two or three before the blackbird party gets in full swing.

Red-winged Blackbird female (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Red-winged Blackbird male (Agelaius phoeniceus)

New Fennel in bush on right may be tall enough for nest building, but others on left, not so much

Similar Posts:

Translate »