Red-winged Blackbirds At Lema Ranch

by Larry Jordan on April 4, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird Male photos by Larry Jordan

I was able to leave work early the other day to attempt sighting the Sora that had been seen at Lema Ranch of late.  Apparently, this Sora came out in the open rather regularly and was easy to observe.  I was able to see the bird after about an hour wait but didn’t get a decent photo to share.  The Red-winged Blackbirds, on the other hand, were putting on a show!

This male Red-winged Blackbird is exhibiting his song spread display as he sings at the top of his lungs.  Described by Birds of North America Online as full intensity, meaning “epaulet feathers erected, wings extended fully and curved downward, tail lowered and fully spread and all contour feathers erected.”

Here is another angle of this bird in his song spread display.

You have to love those cool epaulets and for those who have never heard the male Red-winged Blackbird’s trilled and very identifiable song, it goes like this: [audio:]

During breeding season the male is very obvious.  He perches atop cattails, in nearby trees or in any other high location to get an overview of his territory and sings and displays almost constantly.  He will also engage females in high speed chase.  These chases are fun to watch as they are conducted at the bird’s top speed and are an amazing display of aerial maneuvers.

The female Red-winged Blackbird is the object of all this attention

and being strongly polygynous (mating with more than one partner), there may be up to 15 females nesting in one male’s territory.

What are you looking at?  I’m taken!

Check out Birdfreak’s Bird Photography Weekly for more great bird photos, and if you have some of your own,  share them with the rest of us bird watchers!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Wren April 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm

They are fun to watch, aren’t they? I didn’t realize that the males spread themselves quite so thin. Males are much easier to spot than females, so it’s easy to think there are lots more males.

I love that last photo of the male. What a neat pattern he makes with his wings! and the red patches look exactly like epaulets.
.-= Wren´s last blog extra charge for attitude =-.


Eileen April 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Great set of RW Blackbirds. They are fun to hear and see.
.-= Eileen´s last blog ..Costa Rica bird…part two =-.


Jill April 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Excellent photos of the red-winged, Larry! The view from the back is really pretty cool looking. You got some great photos, the cattails add a nice background. Ah, the sora! Zac always seems to see them and I’m always looking the other way…then they’re gone!
.-= Jill´s last blog ..Magellanic Penguins =-.


Amber Coakley April 4, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Hi Larry – I’ve heard, but not seen, a Sora as well. Maybe next time you’ll get that photo, I’m rooting for you!

Those Red-winged Blackbirds are sure fun to watch. I really, really like that one from behind too. He looks like he is wearing shoulder pads.

The female Red-winged Blackbirds have a subtle beauty, but you have to capture them against green or another saturated color to really see it in a photo. (IMO) I took pics of these birds a few weeks back, and your post reminded me that I forgot to write it up!
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..You Gotta Love a Red-head =-.


Bob K April 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Great series of photos, Larry, showing the lovely display of the male and apparent nonchalance of the drab female.
.-= Bob K´s last blog ..Life’s Bean Goose To Me =-.


Mick April 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Fantastic photos of the male displaying and singing. I like the way you have included the song – it makes it so much more interesting for those of us who don’t know these birds. Thanks!
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Black-Breasted Button-Quail =-.


phil April 5, 2010 at 12:18 am

An abiding memory for me is the song of the Red-winged Blackbird – unique. Although we call them Blackbirds aren’t they a member of the oriole family thus explaining their sons?
.-= phil´s last blog ..Check It Out =-.


NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds April 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

That was a really sweet bird. So beautiful the male is. But 15 females??? It was great to listen to the song too. 🙂
.-= NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds´s last blog ..This weeks highlights =-.


Nicole April 6, 2010 at 12:32 am

She looks a bit unsure of the attention.
But he is oh so gorgeous!
Amazing, those colours!
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..Shovelers passing through =-.


Lana April 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

Great captures of the male’s display!
.-= Lana´s last blog ..New Life =-.


Ryan April 8, 2010 at 5:08 am

Great series of photos! I have seen a few Red-Winged Blackbirds recently, but unfortunately haven’t had my camera at hand. Do the males have different variations in their markings? For example, a tri-colored? Or is this a different species?
.-= Ryan´s last blog ..Hello Spring! – Northern Cardinal Photos =-.


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