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Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbird
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Agelaius phoeniceus
The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a perching bird of family Icteridae, found in most of North America. These birds breed from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and central Mexico, and winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia.

The common name is taken from the male bird's distinctive red shoulder patches, or "epaulets", which are visible when the bird is flying or displaying. At rest, the male shows a paler yellow wingbar against a black background. The female is an inconspicuous shade of brown. The adult birds are from 7 to 9.5 inches (17 to 24 cm) long, and have distinctive sharp bills.

They feed primarily on plant seeds, including weeds and waste grain, but about a quarter of their diet consists of insects, spiders, mollusks and other small animals. In season, they eat blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit. They can be lured to backyard bird feeders[?] by bread and seed mixtures.

When migrating north, these birds travel in single-sex flocks[?], and the males usually arrive a few days before the females. Once they have reached the location where they plan to breed, the males stake out territories by singing. They defend their territory aggressively, both against other male Red-winged Blackbirds and against birds they perceive as threatening, including crows, Osprey, and hawks.

Red-winged Blackbirds prefer marshes, but will nest near any body of water. Pairs raise two or three clutches per season, in a new nest for each clutch. The nests are cups of vegetation, and are either built in shrubs or attached to marsh grass. Three to five eggs are laid at a time. They are incubated by the female and hatch in 11-12 days. Red-winged blackbirds are born blind and naked, but are ready to leave the nest ten days after they hatch.

When breeding season is over, Red-winged Blackbirds gather in huge flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions.

Despite the similar names, the Red-winged Blackbird is not related to the European Redwing or the Old World Common Blackbird, which are thrushes (Turdidae).

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