|Conservation status||Least concern|
The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a species of passerine bird of the family Icteridae, and found throughout the marshlands of much of North America.
The red-winged Blackbird is 7-9 inches in length, and has a wingspan between 12-16 inches. The male is a glossy-black in color, and can be mistaken for a small crow but for the red epaulets on their wings. When at rest the red on the folded wing is partially concealed; in flight or in courtship displays with the wings partially-spread open, the red coloration covers nearly half of wing area above the secondaries. Yellow also stands out as a border on the rearward edge between the red and the black. Female birds have the look of a large sparrow; predominately brown in color, their plumage is tinged with dark streaks; instead of a red epaulet there is a patch of a richer brown. Young birds are colored in a pattern similar to adult females.
Its voice has been described as a musical "konk-la-ree" sound.
The Latin name for the bird is based on two specific characteristics about the bird itself. The first, Agelaius refers to the fact that these birds are often seen in large flocks; in fact, some studies have determined they have the largest overall number of any living North American bird. The species name, phoeniceus, refers to the deep red color on their wings.
In addition to English, various Native American tribes have also given them names which refer to the red color. The Ojibwa language ("memiskondinimaanganeshiinh"), the Odawa language ("memeskoniinisi" or "memiskonigwiigaans") of Ontario and Michigan, and the Lakota language ("wabloša") of the Great Plains specifically identify this bird by the red wing patch. Other tribes have taken a differing approach; the Oji-Cree language of northern Ontario and the Ojibwa language of northwestern Ontario and Manitoba call it a "jachakanoob" and a "jachakanoo" respectively, in essence identifying it as a type of junco.
Red-winged blackbirds are found over much of North America, from from Alaska and northwestern Canada south to northern Central America, spanning the continent to both coasts. Migrations take place only with those birds which breed in northern areas, where they migrate to the southern U.S. between late August to October; other bird populations which breed in southern climates generally stay year-round.
Currently, 22 subspecies are recognized by various authorities; others recognize as much as 24. The subspecies A. p. richmondi and A. p. fortis have been recently proposed to be three and four distinct subspecies, respectively, as well.
- Agelaius phoeniceus aciculatus; California: east-central Kern County
- Agelaius phoeniceus arctolegus; Southeastern Alaska and Yukon to north-central US; some in south-central US
- Agelaius phoeniceus arthuralleni; Northern Guatemala
- Agelaius phoeniceus brevirostris; Caribbean slope of Honduras and southeastern Nicaragua
- Agelaius phoeniceus bryanti; Northwestern Bahama Islands
- Agelaius phoeniceus californicus; California: Central Valley
- Agelaius phoeniceus caurinus; Coastal southwest of British Columbia, to northwestern California; some in central California
- Agelaius phoeniceus floridanus; Florida: Everglades to Key West
- Agelaius phoeniceus fortis; East of Rocky Mountains in Montana to southeastern New Mexico; some in Texas
- Agelaius phoeniceus grinnelli; Pacific slope of western Guatemala to northwestern Costa Rica
- Agelaius phoeniceus gubernator; Mexico: Durango to Zacatecas, México and Tlaxcala
- Agelaius phoeniceus phoeniceus; Southeastern Canada to Texas and southeastern US
- Agelaius phoeniceus littoralis; southeastern Texas to northwestern Florida along Gulf Coast
- Agelaius phoeniceus mailliardorum; Coastal central California
- Agelaius phoeniceus mearnsi; Southeastern Georgia to northern Florida
- Agelaius phoeniceus megapotamus; Texas: lower Rio Grande Valley to eastern Mexico, south to Veracruz
- Agelaius phoeniceus nelsoni; Mexico: Morelos and Guerrero to western Puebla and Chiapas
- Agelaius phoeniceus neutralis; California: San Luis Obispo County to northwest Baja California
- Agelaius phoeniceus nevadensis Southeastern British Columbia to Idaho, southeastern Calififornia, and southern Nevada; some in southern Arizona
- Agelaius phoeniceus nyaritensis; Southwestern Mexico: Nayarit
- Agelaius phoeniceus richmondi; Caribbean slope of Mexico, southern Veracruz to Belize and northern Guatemala
- Agelaius phoeniceus sonoriensis; Southeastern California to northeastern Baja California, east to southern Nevada, central Arizona and northwestern Mexico
Red-winged blackbirds are open-country birds, living in fields and near forest edges, but it is wetlands which they prefer. They are most often seen near marshes, creeks, or any waterway adjacent to fields. Seeds, grains, and insects make a large part of their diet.