Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Red-winged blackbird
Agelaius phoeniceus

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Emberizidae
  • Genus: Agelaius
  • Species: Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Authority: Linnaeus

Comments on taxonomy:
Other names: marsh blackbird; red shouldered blackbird; swamp blackbird; red-wing; red-winged starling; red-winged oriole *04*. *04*. Subspecies mentioned in Bent (1958) and in Mengel (1965).

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Abundant migrant and summer resident. Common winter resident in south, in northern and central portions of the state, species is an uncommon winter resident *01*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected<
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Species destructive to corn and rice crops *06,07,14,21,26,30,32*. However, species feeds on destructive insects *02,04,11,19,21*. Species not on endangered or threatened list *23*.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries

Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake

Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

Forest cover types:

Cover typeStructural stageCanopy closureSeason
Black willow Unknown Unknown All
Unknown Unknown Unknown All

Associated tree species:

  • Black willow

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Persistent Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Narrowleaved persistent Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Woodlands with trees greater than 5 m. tall in an observed habitat in Michigan *14*. Occassionally nests in trees *02,04,19*. Also use trees as roosting sites *02,18,20*. Species favors swamps, marshes, road- side ditches, sloughs, and marshy type growth around ponds, lakes or sluggish streams *01,02,03,04,14,18,19,21*. Species also associated with upland orchards, clover and alfalfa fields, hayfields and other croplands *01,04,13,14,17,19,33*.

Important plant and animal association: Grackles, cowbirds, starlings.
Species flocks with grackles, cowbirds and starlings in non-breeding season *02,04,10,20,21*. Species parasitized by cowbirds *02,04,09*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Cropland and pasture Special habitat Spring/summer
Cropland and pasture Special habitat Fall
Streams and canals Special habitat Spring/summer
Streams and canals Special habitat Fall
Marsh Special habitat Spring/summer
Marsh Special habitat Fall
Nonforested wetland Special habitat All
Cropland Special habitat Spring/summer
Cropland Special habitat Fall
Lakes and ponds Special habitat Spring/summer
Lakes and ponds Special habitat Fall
Shrub swamp Special habitat All
Roadways, buildings, cemeteries, etc. Special habitat All
Streams Special habitat Spring/summer
Streams Special habitat Fall

Species-habitat interrelations: Type of habitat (swamps, marshes, roadside ditches and surrounding croplands) function of habitat (nest, feed, breed, rest) value (high) season (spring/summer/fall and occassionally winter). The marshy-swampy habitats with extensive cattail, bulrush, reed and sedge growths are of high value *01,02,03,04,18,21*. Similar growth around ponds, roadsides and sluggish streams equally important *02,04, 14,18*. Croplands valuable as a feeding, flocking and roosting sites *02,03,04,13,16,19*. Favored winter habitats include cornfields, pasture and assorted shrubbery *34*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Unknown high value habitat Unknown Winter Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Cropland and pasture Special habitat Fall Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Cropland and pasture Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Streams and canals Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Water column- arthropods
Nonforested wetland Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Water column- arthropods
Marsh Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Water column- arthropods
Shrub swamp Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Water column- arthropods
Streams Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Water column- arthropods
Cropland Special habitat Fall Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods
Shrub strata- flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Tree canopy- arthropods
Air- arthropods
Shrub strata-flowers and fruits of grass or grasslike vegetation
Cropland Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
May forage in shallow waters for Diptera larvae *18*. Seen catching insects on the wing *18*. Forages in marsh during nesting season, in fields upon arrival in spring and also in late summer and early fall, see bent (1958). Winter residents assumed to feed on plant matter, being herbivorous prior to breeding season and mostly insectivorous during breeding season *13,19*. Forages on ground, occassionally in trees *02,04,13,18,19*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Streams and canals Special habitat Spring/summer River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Streams and canals Special habitat Fall River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Marsh Special habitat Spring/summer River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Marsh Special habitat Fall River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Nonforested wetland Special habitat Spring/summer River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Nonforested wetland Special habitat Fall River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Streams Special habitat Spring/summer River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Streams Special habitat Fall River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Shrub swamp Special habitat Spring/summer River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs
Shrub swamp Special habitat Fall River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody
Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Tree canopy, small branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Shrub strata, canopy of broad-leaved deciduous shrubs

Comments on breed-guilding:
Breeding activities usually take place on the ground *27*. Nesting done on ground or in a tree or shrub *02,04,06,11,18,19*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is OMNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Rosaceae (rose, cherry, plum, apple) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Oats Fruit/seeds
Insecta Larva
Insecta Adult
Insecta Nymph
Collembola (springtails) Larva
Collembola (springtails) Adult
Collembola (springtails) Nymph
Ephemeroptera (mayflies) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Larva
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Nymph
Embioptera (webspinners) Larva
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Adult
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Nymph
Coleoptera (beetles) Larva
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Nymph
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Adult
Important:
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Oats Fruit/seeds
Insecta Larva
Insecta Adult
Insecta Nymph
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Juvenile:
Rosaceae (rose, cherry, plum, apple) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Oats Fruit/seeds
Insecta Larva
Insecta Adult
Insecta Nymph
Collembola (springtails) Larva
Collembola (springtails) Adult
Collembola (springtails) Nymph
Ephemeroptera (mayflies) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Larva
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Nymph
Embioptera (webspinners) Larva
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Adult
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Nymph
Coleoptera (beetles) Larva
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Nymph
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Adult
Adult:
Rosaceae (rose, cherry, plum, apple) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): Oats Fruit/seeds
Insecta Larva
Insecta Adult
Ephemeroptera (mayflies) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Adult

Comments on food habits: 
General: Terres (1981) reports that 73% of the red-winged blackbirds diet is vegetable matter. Martin et al. (1951) also mentions that most of the diet is plant material. Insects important to young *02,13,18*.
Juvenile: Young fed insects, mainly by the female *02,11,13,18*. Older juveniles assumed to have same food habits as adult *00*.
Adult: Species can be destructive to corn *06,07,21,26*. Insects more important during nesting season when adult (female) forage closer to nesting sites *02,21*. Weed seeds, oats, blackberries and blueberries make up other good plant species *02,04,11,21*.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Orchards: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Ground cover- grass (%): see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: see comments
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Orchards: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: see comments

Resting juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Orchards: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Human associations: see comments

Feeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Orchards: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: see comments

Resting adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Orchards: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: see comments

Breeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp, general
  • Aquatic habitats: ditches
  • Aquatic habitats: stream weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Ground cover- grass (%): see comments
  • Human associations: farm ponds
  • Human associations: see comments

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Marshy wetlands or sluggish streams, lakes, and along roadsides.
Feeding juvenile: Young fed insects, mainly by the female *11,13,18*. Juveniles assumed to feed as adults *00*. Captive parents fed young for 30 days after hatching *28*.
Resting juvenile: Juveniles assumed to have the resting habits of adults *00*. See [RA].
Feeding adult: Feed in open farm country in spring, late summer and early fall, see bent (1958). More time spent feeding in marshes during breeding season *02,21*. Some feeding done in trees in search of catapillars *02,18*. Feed in the open farm areas during the day *04,13,18,19*.
Resting adult: Males roost together at night *02*. Roosting done in large flocks, on treetops, in uplands, between feedings *02,03,18,20*. Roosting also done in marshes and on ground of grassy fields *06*.
Breeding adult: A New Jersey study showed a range of 68.6 to 84.1% plant cover as preferred nesting sites *25*. Copulation takes place on ground *27*. Breeding activity takes place in marshes, swamps, sloughs, ditches along roads and along the edges of ponds and streams *02,04,08,11,18*. Courtship takes place in the established territories *11*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *01*.

Physical description: Length 7 to 9 1/2 in. *03,04,19*. Wingspread between 12 to 15 1/2 in. *04,18*. Weight: of male 62 to 70 gm. *04, 18,30*. Of female 37 to 47 gm. *04,13,18,30*. Male black with red epaulets having a yellow streak at lower border *02,03,04*. Red may be concealed *03,04*. Female with brown back, streaked breast and sharp pointed bill *02,04,31*. Immatures sooty brown with mottling and red shoulder patch *03,04,19,31*. Adults have a yearly molt in late summer *19*. Detailed description of plumages in bent (1958).

Reproduction: Breeding season begins with territorial establishment by males soon after their arrival in early March *01,02,04,11,17*. Males often returning to previous territories *17*. Breeding season ending from late June to mid July in Ohio and Minnesota, depending on whether there are one or two broods *02,05,16*. Included in the breeding season is a 61 day nesting season as reported by Moulton (1980). Incubation period between 11 and 12 days, performed by female *02,04,05,11,18,22*. Average number of young fledged per nest between 0.73 and 1.63 in studies done in Iowa and Minnesota *05,22*. In Illinois, Lenington et al. (1982) reported the 1.67 to 3.00 young fledged per successful nest. In Ohio, a two year study showed that an average of 1.3 young fledged per female, see Dulbeer (1976). Fledging successes range from 40.0 to 53.3% in Wisconsin and Minnesota *05,29*. A 31% nesting success reported in Ohio *16*. Two broods per season in some instances *02,04,16,20*. Female ready to breed at 1 yr. of age in California *18*. Males rarely breed at one year, adult plumage obtained at age of two when they usually begin to breed in California *18*. In Wisconsin, courtship period lasts about 21 days *27*. Courtship exemplified by male chasing female, spreading tail, slightly opening wings, puffing feathers, singing and some additional displaying within his territorial boundaries *02,11,27*. Females also participate in these activities, detailed in Nero (1956). Territories established by males with aggressive defense, using song, displays and chasing *02,04,18*. Territory defended against other species as well *21*. In Indiana, males who are unsuccessful in establishing territories either move to areas unsuitable as nesting sites, desert favorable areas prior to nesting activities or take the place of suitable areas of successful males whose mates have completed the nesting cycle, see Yasukawa (1979). Species polygamous in most cases *02,10,11,17,22*. Mean haren size between two and seven *10*. Copulation takes place as early as 30 April in Wisconsin *27*. Copulation occurring on the ground *27*. Three to five eggs per clutch, usually 4, pale bluish green, spotted and blotched with purples, browns and blacks *02,04,10,11,16,19,22*. Clutches completed from early May-late June in Ill. *02,11*. In KY, clutches completed in mid May to mid June *20*. Early May to early July in Ohio *16*. In NJ, vegetation height used for nesting between 165-243 cm. *25*. Nest in cattails with densities ranging from 5.5 to 11.7 stems/m square *10*. Nest constructed from dried cattail leaves, sedges. Loosely woven cup fastened to stalks or twigs, lines with fine grasses and rootlets *04,11,19*. Located in swamp and marshes among dead or living cattails, reed grass, rushes, button bush, alders or willows bordering areas of open water. Also nests in uplands among clover and daisies. Nest on ground or in trees and bushes, 3 in. to 9 ft. above ground *02,04,08,11,18,19,20,25*. Nest constructed by female, male may be attentive *02,11,18,27*. Nesting dates from early May to early July in Ill. and surrounding states *08,10,11,16*. Young altricial with scarlet skin and a scant covering of grayish down *02,04*. Later develops a sooty brown plumage with red shoulders, streaked and similar to female *03,04,19*. Post juvenile molt in Aug. Produces first winter plumage of a greenish black, see Bent (1958). Fledge from about the 10th to 14th day but still unable to fly *02,04,05,13,28*. Once fledged, young remain near nesting area for about two weeks, with parent(s) discontinuing the care of young in this period *02*. Payne (1969) reported that in Calif., captive parents fed for 30 days after hatching, with the young becoming independent shortly afterwards.

Behavior: Territory may be small or large, depending on size of marsh and population density. Aggressivly defends this territory which varies in size from .18 hectares in Mich. to 32,300 sq. ft. in California *14,18*. Lenington et al. (1982) reports territorial sizes of 660 to 1676 m square. Polygamous males have larger territories than monogamous males *18*. Exact home range unknown, however, it was stated by Pough (1951) that species forages up to 1 mile away from nesting area. Daily movements involve flights to open fields during the day to feed while remaining in the breeding marshes in the early morning and late afternoon *04*. Bent (1958) reports that the females and young flock together to feed in the uplands during the day while the males also flock to the uplands, separate from the females and their young. Species flocks together with cowbirds, starlings and grackles in fields during late summer, fall and winter *02,04,20,21*. Bent (1958) reports that in August, species flocks together in the cover of the middle of marsh to molt, reappearing in September with winter plumage and ready for migration. Species arrives in Ill. and surrounding states from its wintering grounds in the southern U.S. in early March *01,02,08,11,14*. However, there are some year round residents of the state *01*. Males arrive first *02, 04,08,11,14,17*. Females arriving from early April to mid May *08,10*. Departure taking place in October *01,02,08*. Species has an extensive range *02,03,19*. Young disperse with rest of flock in early August, to the middle of the marsh as mentioned above. The young then appear on the uplands with the females in late September. Migration follows in mid October, see Bent (1958). Foraging commonly done on the ground in open farm country *04,13,18,19*. Much of the foraging in these fields done upon arrival in early spring and again in late summer and early fall, see Bent (1958). Forage in nesting area during the breeding season *02*. Some foraging done in trees in search of catapillars *02,18*. In CA, feeding done in the morning, then returning to rest, preen and sing in the cattails, returning to feed again in mid afternoon *18*. May catch insects on the wing *18*. Feed in large flocks, up to a mile away from nesting site *19,31*.

Limiting factors: Bent (1958) mentions water or the proximity of water as an essential need of the species. Species parasitized by cowbirds *02,04,09*. Predation (by raccoons, mink, skunk, snakes, hawks, owls, grackles and river otter) make up a large percent in egg and nestling mortality *02,05,12,29*.

Population parameters: Dolbeer et al. (1979) reports that between 1966 and 1976, the population of red-winged blackbirds increased in Illinois due to favorable changes in land use practices such as increase corn acreage. Erskine, A.J. (1978) states that red-winged blackbird populations have also been increasing in Canada. Graber et al. (1963) mentions that the state population has increased from 4,000,000 in 1907 to 11,000,000 in 1958. Mortality rate of nestlings 33% throughout brooding period *15*. Between a 40 to 70% nestling mortality for successful nest only and for all nests, respectively *29*. Sex ratio of about 1.6 to 3.7:1.0 females to males *02,04, 18,30*. A 50:50 ratio reported in Bent (1958). Extremes in lifespan between 8 and 14 years *02,04*. Dyer et al. (1977) reported an average lifespan between 0.94 to 2.14 years.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Creating/maintaining wetlands from non-wetlands
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Developing/maintaining ditchbank vegetation to prevent erosion and provide riparian habitat
  • Controlling pests

Adverse:

  • Practices other than those included on the ifwis list (see comments)
  • Drawdown of ponds/lakes
  • Draining wetlands
  • Agricultural practices other than those included in ifwis list (see comments)
  • Strip mining
  • Drawdown of ponds/lakes

Existing:

  • Performing special survey prior to prescription

Comments on management practices:
Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 *35*. Diversifying agricultural practices may help to prevent crop destruction *06*. In a New York study, it was found that planting later-maturing varieties of corn or adjusting planting time to prevent early maturity could also prevent crop damage by this species *32*. Shooting patrols and acetylene exploders used in Ohio *06*. Management practices that would be beneficial to the red-winged blackbird may be adverse to humans due to its role as a pest species *00,06,30,32*. Other practices having an opposite effect *00*. Wetlands important habitat for this species *00,01,02,03,04,14,18,21*. Strip mining destructive to species habitat *00*.

 


REFERENCES

0. IRISH, JEFFREY T. 1984. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (217)333-6846.

1. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

2. BENT, A.C. 1958. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES, TANAGERS AND ALLIES. U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. NO. 211.

3. PETERSON, R. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. 4 ED. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 384 P.

4. TERRES, J. 1980. AUDUBON SOCIETY: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED KNOPF, NEW YORK. 1109 P.

5. MOULTON, D.W., 1980. NESTING ECOLOGY OF THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD IN NORTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA. JOURNAL OF THE MINN. ACAD. OS SCI. VOL. 46. NO. 2. PP. 4-6.

6. STONE, C.P. AND C.R. DANNER. 1980. AUTUMN FLOCKING OF RED-WINGED RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS IN RELATION TO AGRICULTURAL VARIABLES. AMERICAN MIDL. NAT. VOL. 103. NO. 1. PP. 196-199.

7. WORONECKI, P.P., R.A. STEHN AND R.A. DOLBEER. 1980. COMPENSATORY RESPONSE OF MATURING CORN KERNELS FOLLOWING SIMULATED DAMAGE BY BIRDS. JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY. VOL. 17, NO. 3. PP. 737-746.

8. BERNSTEIN, N.P. AND E.B. MCLEAN. 1980. NESTING OF RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS IN CATTAILS AND COMMON REED GRASS IN MENTOR MARSH. OHIO JOURNAL OF SCI. VOL 80. NO. 1. PP. 14-19.

9. LINZ, G.M. AND S.B. BOLIN. 1982. INCIDENCE OF BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD PARASITISM ON RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS. WILSON BULL. VOL. 94. NO. 1. PP. 93-95.

10. LENINGTON, S. AND R. SCOLA. 1982. COMPETITION BETWEEN RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS AND COMMON GRACKLES. THE WILSON BULL. VOL. 94, NO. 1. PP. 90-93.

11. WIENS, J.A. 1965. BEHAVIORAL INTERACTIONS OF RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS AND COMMON GRACKLES ON A COMMON BREEDING GROUND. THE AUK. VOL. 82. NO. 3. PP. 356-374.

12. CACCAMISE, D.F. 1976. NESTING MORTALITY IN THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. THE AUK. VOL 93 NO. 3. PP. 517-534.

13. WILSON, S.W. 1978. FOOD SIZE, FOOD TYPE, AND FORAGING SITES OF RED- WINGED BLACKBIRDS. THE WILSON BULL. VOL. 90. NO. 4. PP. 511-520.

14. ALBERS, P.H. 1978. HABITAT SELECTION BY BREEDING RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS. THE WILSON BULL. VOL. 90. NO. 4. PP. 619-634.

15. STREHL, C. 1978. A SYNCHRONY OF HATCHING IN RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS AND SURVIVAL OF LATE AND EARLY HATCHING BIRDS. THE WILSON BULL. VOL. 90, NO. 4. PP. 653-655.

16. DOLBEER, R.A. 1976. REPRODUCTIVE RATE AND TEMPERAL SPACING OF NESTING OR RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS IN UPLAND HABITAT. THE AUK VOL. 93. NO. 2. PP. 343-355.

17. YASUKAWA, K. 1979. TERRITORY ESTABLISHMENT IN RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS: IMPORTANCE OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR AND EXPERIENCE. THE CONDOR. VOL. 81. NO. 3. PP. 258-264.

18. ORIANS, G.H. 1961. THE ECOLOGY OF BLACKBIRDS (AGELAIUS) SOCIAL SYSTEMS. ECOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS. VOL. 31, NO. 3. PP. 285-312.

19. POUGH, R.H. 1951. AUDUBON BIRD GUIDE: SMALL LAND BIRDS. DOUBLEDAY AND COMPANY, INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK. 312 PP. + 48 PLS.

20. MENGEL, R. 1965. THE BIRDS OF KENTUCKY. ORNITH. MONOGR. NO. 3. 581 P.

21. MARTIN, A., H. ZIM AND A. NELSON. 1951. AMERICAN WILDLIFE AND PLANTS. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO., NEW YORK. 500 P.

22. CRAWFORD, R.D. 1977. BREEDING BIOLOGY OF YEAR-OLD AND OLDER FEMALE RED-WINGED AND YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. WILSON BULL. VOL. 89. NO. 1. PP. 73-80.

23. BOWLES, M.L., V.E. DIERSING, J.E. EBINGER AND H.C. SCHULTZ, EDS. 1981. ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE ANIMALS AND VASCULAR PLANTS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV. 189 P.

24. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1982. THIRTY-FOURTH SUPPLEMENT TO THE AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. SUPPLEMENT AUK 99(3).

25. CACCAMISE, D.F. 1977. BREEDING SUCCESS AND NEST SITE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. WILSON BULL. VOL. 89, NO. 3. PP. 396- 403.

26. DOLBEER, R.A. AND R.A. STEHN. 1979. POPULATION TRENDS OF BLACKBIRDS AND STARLINGS IN NORTH AMERICA, 1966-76. U.S. DEPT. OF THE INTERIOR, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE. SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC REPORT - WILDLIFE NO. 214. WASHINGTON, D.C. 27 PP. + APX 1: 4 PP. + APX 2: 66 PP.

27. NERO. R.W. 1956. A BEHAVIOR STUDY OF THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. I. MATING AND NESTING ACTIVITIES. WILSON BULL. VOL. 68. NO. 1. PP. 5-37.

28. PAYNE, R.B. 1969. BREEDING SEASON AND REPRODUCTIVE PHYSIOLOGY OF TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS AND REDWINGED BLACKBIRDS. UNIV. OF CALIF. PUBLICATIONS IN ZOOLOGY. UNIV. OF CALIF. PRESS, BERKELEY AND LOS ANGELES. VOL. 90. 115 PP. + 10 PLS.

29. YOUNG, HOWARD. 1963. AGE-SPECIFIC MORTALITY IN THE EGGS AND NESTLINGS OF BLACKBIRDS. THE AUK. VOL 80, NO. 2. PP. 145-155.

30. DYER, M.I. AND P. WARD. 1977. MANAGEMENT OF PEST SITUATIONS, P. 267- 300 IN: J. PINOWSKI AND S.C. KENDEIGH (EDS.). GRANIVOROUS BIRDS IN ECOSYSTEMS: THEIR EVOLUTION, POPULATIONS, ENERGETICS, ADAPTATIONS, IMPACT AND CONTROL. CAMBRIDGE UNIV. PRESS, CAMBRIDGE. 415 PP.

31. ROBBINS, C.J., B. BRUUN AND H.S. ZIM. 1966. A GUIDE TO FIELD IDENTIFICATION, BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA. GOLDEN PRESS, NEW YORK. 340 PP.

32. BRIDGELAND, W.T. AND JAMES W. CASLICK. 1983. RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN CORNFIELD CHARACTERISTICS AND BLACKBIRD DAMAGE. J. OF WILDL. MANAGEMENT. VOL. 47, NO. 3. PP. 824-829.

33. ERSKINE, A.J. 1978. THE FIRST TEN YEARS OF THE CO-OPERATIVE BREEDING BIRD SURVEY IN CANADA. CAN. WILDL. SERV. REP. NO. 42. 61 PP.

34. GRABER, R.R. AND J.W. GRABER. 1963. A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF BIRD POPULATIONS IN ILLINOIS, 1906-1909 AND 1956-1958. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV. BULL. VOL. 28, ARTICLE 3. PP. 383-528.

35. BERGER, T., A. NEUNER AND S. EDWARDS. 1979. DIRECTORY OF FEDERALLY CONTROLLED SPECIES. ASSOC. OF SYSTEMATIC COLLECTIONS. LAWRENCE, KN.

 


 

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