Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phenology for 4/21/12: Red-Winged Blackbird

It's spring, which means that some days are just too beautiful to waste at the computer, which means by the same token that days when I'm online are likely to be dismal.

However, Google has added a page view counter to Blogspot, showing that one thing at this site that consistently attracts readers is the phenology. I hate to disappoint those who want to read about wildlife on the Internet. And today, on the way to the computer center, I saw something worth writing about: a red-winged blackbird.

They're not rare. In some parts of the Eastern States they can even become a nuisance. At Maryland's Centennial Lake Park I came to expect that, in spring, visitors would always feel "greeted" with a loud "chirp-chirr-RRREEE!" But this is the first time I remember seeing one in Gate City. We're too high up in the mountains, don't have enough reedy marshes, and in most years we don't have warm enough weather, to attract these swamp-dwelling birds.

Here's a photo of the male that seems to come from a Cornell University-sponsored site:

They can fluff the colorful feathers to show or hide more red and yellow, "depending on how confident they feel" as the Cornell writer puts it. When you hear a loud "RRREEE!" you'll probably see the red wing patches.

The females look like a completely different species. They're much better camouflaged, and don't seem to sing. While these birds are in the United States, the females are usually hiding on their nests, trying to look like shadows in a reedy marsh and doing an excellent job, as shown on Wikipedia: