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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