Red-Winged Blackbirds Are Migrating

8 Aug

The giant tree just east of the Riverside Boat Club is filled with the sounds of a flock of red-winged blackbirds stopping by on their migration from northern New England (or Canada) to the southern US. But these aren’t our Magazine Beach red- wings; ours are gone.

Over the past weeks, I have been checking the hedge along the river looking for young fledglings and their parents. But no males position themselves over my head and descend to within a few inches of my scalp while making alarm calls. I think of this display as “dancing on my head” and know when it stops the birds have left for the season.

Red-wing males are the first birds to arrive each year, generally the third week in February. I look for their red epaulets edged in yellow and enjoy watching them assume the role of sentry, warning of the approach of humans, dogs and predators.

The females arrive in April, mate, and choose a spot in the hedge to build a nest. Dark brown with darker brown streaks and a dark eye band with a lighter band above the eye, they are sometimes confused with sparrows. You can sometimes see them feeding in the swales.

By June nesting is underway in the hedge and the males become very protective. Both males and females are seen bringing insects to their young, who hatch in 11-12 days, fledge (leave the nest and fly) 10-14 days later and begin their migration within a couple of weeks later.

Their early departure reminds us to stay alert for the migrating birds that will shortly be passing through.

–By Jeanne Strahan

To learn more about nature around us, visit the Fly, Buzz, and Honk! Festival at Riverside Press Park this Wednesday and Thursday, August 9 and 10, 10am-12noon.

One Response to “Red-Winged Blackbirds Are Migrating”

  1. fuguestatement October 17, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    Hi—I hope this is an appropriate forum for my question for Jean. It is mid-October and I am wondering about migrating birds through Cambridge at this time. Is it all over? Can I/should I begin to provide supplemental diet now that the rains have died down and we are expecting our killing frost? I am on Observatory Hill, if it makes any difference. Thank you for any help you can offer.

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