Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoenicus
“What is that black bird with the red on the wing? “, rarely are birds so fittingly named. Red-winged blackbirds are not shy birds and are often spotted singing out in the open atop power lines, trees, and cattails. They will vigorously defend their nest sites by attacking nearby intruder be they hawk, crow or birdwatcher!


The species gets its name from the colouration of the adult males; medium sized jet-black bird with red and yellow shoulder patches. Females look nothing like the male and are sometimes mistaken for other species! They are primarily brown with heavy streaking on their breast and a yellowish beige colour on their face and throat.


During the breeding season red-winged blackbirds feed primarily on insects and other invertebrates, their diet changes in fall/winter when seeds from various plants become increasingly important.

During their breeding season they are usually found near water, lake edges, marshes, and ditches but can sometimes be found away from water near fields and in people’s backyards! The males are easy to spot as they are generally calling from an exposed perch. In the fall, red-winged blackbirds may form huge flocks and are often found near wetlands and agricultural fields where they will eat any spillage.


Red-winged blackbirds are one of the first migratory birds to come back in the spring and will often start nesting in late April. The nests are usually built in low vegetation such as cattails or shrubs and are made of grass, cattails and twigs. A normal clutch will consist of 2-3 eggs bluish spotted eggs and they usually produce one clutch per breeding season.

How to attract

Water features, some cover in the form of shrubs or hedges will help attract these birds to your yard. They will readily take to using bird feeders and are particularly fond of platform feeders with cracked corn or sunflower seeds.