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Harbingers Of Spring Return

Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackles, all harbingers of spring, have started to return to Vermont over the past week or two.  In southern and western United States Red-wings are thought to be nonmigratory, but individuals breeding in the Northeast on average migrate roughly 500 miles or more south in the fall.  When spring comes, males migrate first and arrive back in the Northeast several weeks before females. 

When they do arrive back, Red-winged Blackbirds often encounter several snow storms while on their breeding grounds.  This is when life can become challenging for these voracious seed-eaters.  They have a couple of months before nesting begins, during which time they are establishing territories and attracting a mate, both of which demand good nutrition. Corn and weed seeds make up a majority of their food during this time; insects are their mainstay during the breeding season.

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5 responses

  1. Alice

    I love their song, when they come to land on a branch.

    February 20, 2023 at 9:32 am

  2. Wow, that’s early! I’ve heard grackles, but never dreamed blackbirds would be back already.

    February 20, 2023 at 11:13 am

  3. Walking by Lake Runnemede in Windsor yesterday afternoon, I did not hear any yet. However, I heard what sounded like a phoebe a few times in the past two weeks. Seemed far too soon for phoebes. Mary, are you noticing any unusual early arrivals where you are?

    February 20, 2023 at 11:16 am

  4. Bill on the Hill

    If it just turned it’s head a tad to the right, the light would have caught that eye a little better. This is a constant when I’m out shooting wildlife, especially birds. It is also what makes it so much fun, keep ’em coming Mary, I love it!
    Bill… :~)

    February 21, 2023 at 9:15 am

  5. In Georgia blackbirds are the only big flocks of birds I ever see. Usually in early December.

    February 26, 2023 at 8:40 am

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