Her intentions clear, this female Red-winged Blackbird retrieves construction material from nature’s own Home Depot. The males of the species are the showy ones, dwelling on the top branches, calling insistently, flaring their crimson shoulder patches, and flying frequently as if they had important business. But the real business of the blackbird community is carried on by the plain-colored females. Nothing happens until the females arrive. They build the nests, they lay the eggs, they sit on them until they hatch, they feed the chicks. Without them, there is no future for the species. The males are not totally useless. Predators, led by crows, try to steal eggs or young chicks if they can. The blackbird males put up valiant aerial battles, using teamwork to harass and drive away raptors much larger than themselves.
Photographers, myself included, get seduced by the males’ red epaulets. They’re easy targets. The females appear more rarely, and more briefly. Here are a few recent snapshots.