Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).

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New birds under the feeders. Birds of New Jersey assures us that the return of the red-winged blackbirds is a sure sign of spring. Hurrah.

Although they often travel in large flocks, in spring males return before females to defend their territory. Perhaps that’s the case with this one.

Male red-winged blackbirds are known by their epaulets–red and yellow wing bars. Cornell Lab of Ornithology says the males can puff up or hide their epaulets, or shoulder patches, depending on how confident they feel. Without a female to show off to, perhaps this one didn’t feel the need to get all puffed up. Or, perhaps this is a juvenile.

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The bill of the red-winged blackbird is pointed.

Female red-winged blackbirds are brown and heavily streaked with a white eyebrow and no epaulets. No females under the feeders yet. They come with the flock.

Birds of New Jersey reports that red-winged blackbirds feed mostly on seeds except in summer when they switch to insects.

Today is March 15. Cold, windy March day, but the snow is melting, as you can see. Surely spring is coming.

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