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COASTAL CRITTER:RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

DESCRIPTION:The beautiful Red-winged Blackbird is easily identified by the red shoulder "patch" and yellow chevron on the wings of the male.  The female and young birds lack the shoulder patch and chevron and are marked with brown and black streaks.  This dull coloration

makes them difficult to see by predators and

people in their marsh habitat.  At 7 to 9 1/2   inches in length, the Red-winged Blackbird is just a little smaller than the American Robin.  It has a short, thick beak for eating seeds, insects and small aquatic animals.  

HABITAT/ECOLOGY:The red-winged blackbird is the most common species of bird in the United States.  The Red-winged Blackbird lives near marshes, estuaries, ponds, lakes and fields.  While it is thought of as a "Coastal Critter," it can live far from the coast, but will always live near a wetland where there is plenty of protection, food and water.  It builds a neatly woven, cup-shaped nest on tall grasses or bushes in the marsh.  It even builds nests in corn fields if there is plenty of food and water nearby.  The Red-winged Blackbird is

very aggressive when defending its nesting

territory and can be seen and heard as they

cling to plant stems and call, "konk-la-ree!"

CONSERVATION:The Red-winged Blackbird is a beneficial bird, although it may be considered a nuisance at times due to its large population.  It seems to adapt well to the presence of humans and may even take advantage of the human lifestyle.  For example, the Red-winged Blackbird is found in large numbers in campgrounds because there is a constant supply of food discarded by humans.  It can be found on livestock farms where it benefits from the grain fed to cattle and the insects the cattle attract.  The Red-winged Blackbird can become a health hazard and nuisance at the end of the nesting season when the birds form large flocks and join with other types of blackbirds to feed and roost near human habitats.  Bird droppings can carry many harmful diseases which can be transmitted

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