While Red-winged Blackbirds are present year-round in southern New England, their return is one of the key indicators that spring has sprung further north. Males have just started appearing in northern New England, and females will follow shortly. Hearing these harbingers of spring is as delightful as seeing them.
Both males and females have a repertoire of songs and calls. The male redwing has nine distinct song types, the most familiar of which is its “konk-la-ree” song. Females have three main categories of much shorter songs.
The male sings throughout the year, but most frequently during the breeding season when territories are being established. In addition, he uses this song to initiate female courtship behavior once she is settled on his territory. Initially the female redwing does not answer the male’s song, but she does so frequently once she becomes a regular resident of his territory.
Singing is obviously a successful procreation strategy for male Red-winged Blackbirds, for up to 15 females have been observed nesting on the territory of a single male (although he does not necessarily sire all of the offspring).
To hear Red-winged Blackbird songs and calls, go to https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-winged_Blackbird/sounds. (Photo: singing male Red-winged Blackbird)
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