The red-winged blackbird is well known for its characteristic song, beautiful plumage – and the aggressive nature displayed during nesting season. These birds will attack anything that comes close to their nests, regardless of size or actual danger.
You have likely witnessed the male members of this species flitting about with their glossy black feathers and nearly fluorescent red and yellow wing patches. The females, often mistaken for sparrows, are a dull brown, camouflaged to prevent harassment during nesting.
Nests are usually constructed near water, among cattails, rushes, or other tall vegetation. Retention ponds, bird feeders, and vegetation surrounding them have helped these already well-adapted birds become even more comfortable in urban areas. They are polyamorous, with one male playing “Casanova” to approximately five females in his territory. While the females take the brunt of responsibility for raising the young, the males will help feed their young when mom needs a break, in addition to defending females and young from other males, people, pets, and larger birds.
When it Comes to Threats, This Species Does More than Get Its Feathers Ruffled
If their songs and aggressive displays of fluffed up feathers and raised wings to expose their red patches don’t work to chase away threats, these birds will physically enforce their claim over a patch of land. It is that behavior that has earned them their reputation as a fearsome, aggressive bird. Parks, hospitals, and schools close down pathways around nesting areas as people and pets become a target of swooping dive bombs.
Nesting red-winged blackbirds can create conflicts for property owners due to their aggression. As native migrants, these birds – and their nests – are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and cannot be harmed in any way without authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state wildlife agency.
Biology-based Strategies for Red-Winged Blackbird Conflicts
Wild Goose Chase can help. We offer customized plans and biology-based strategies for managing nesting blackbirds legally and humanely.
To learn more about how our biologist-led team of bird conflict specialists can help you manage your red-winged blackbird conflicts, as well as any other bird issues, reach out to our team of experts for an assessment of your bird conflicts.