Red-Winged Blackbird

Photo of a male red-winged blackbird singing
Scientific Name
Agelaius phoeniceus
Icteridae (New World blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) in the order Passeriformes

The red-winged blackbird male is all black, with a bright red shoulder patch bordered with yellow. Sometimes the shoulder patch is concealed. Upperparts of female are dark brown with light streaks on back and head, and a light eyebrow. Underparts are whitish with heavy brown streaks; sometimes there is orange or pinkish on the throat and shoulders. Young males resemble females but have an orange-red shoulder patch. Song is a loud “konk-o-REEE,” with an accent on the last syllable. Call is a sharp “steek” or “chack.”

Length: 8¾ inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Where To Find
image of Red-Winged Blackbird distribution map
Marshes, moist grasslands, wet roadside ditches, and borrow pits along highways. Often present in large flocks in crop fields in late summer and fall. During migration and in winter, roosts at night in cattails and other tall emergent marsh vegetation, or with other blackbirds in tree roosts that may include millions of individuals. Some believe this might be the most abundant bird in North America.
Forages for seeds and insects in marshes, wetlands, and other moist places.
Common permanent resident, widespread and abundant.
Life Cycle
Breeds in brush, aquatic vegetated areas by rivers, ponds, and swamps. They nest both over water or in grasslands, but where they occur with yellow-headed blackbirds, the red-winged blackbirds are forced to nest in shallow water areas or terrestrial locations. Nests are of woven sedge and grass lined with fine grass and rushes, in vegetation. A clutch is usually 3–4 eggs, which hatch after 10–12 days. Fledging occurs 11–14 days later. Commonly 2 or 3 broods in our state, beginning in mid-April.
This easily recognized, abundant and conspicuous bird is appreciated even by casual birders. It is fascinating to watch males display their colorful shoulders and defend their marsh nesting territories.
Marshes and other wetlands are notorious for the “bugs” they harbor, but red-winged blackbirds help keep the populations of insects in check. As seed-eaters, this species also aids in the dispersal of various plants.
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Where to See Species

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has purchased this area as part of the Missouri River Mitigation Project.
About Birds in Missouri

About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 have been recorded within our borders. Most people know a bird when they see one — it has feathers, wings, and a bill. Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs (often in a nest), and the parents care for the young. Many communicate with songs and calls.