Bird Database

Red-winged Blackbird

(Agelaius phoeniceus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Mowing, Pesticides, Blackbird contro

Conservation Actions

Protect wetlands

Red-winged Blackbird

(Agelaius phoeniceus)

With robins now present in New Hampshire year-round, the “kong-ka-reeeee” of a newly arrived Red-winged Blackbird is a much surer sign that spring is on the way. Red-wings typically arrive in southern New Hampshire in early March, but the date varies with the nature of the preceding winter. In warmer years they arrive weeks ahead of this schedule, and in parts of the state they, like robins before them, are opting to remain throughout the colder months. Most birds are still migrants however, and males arrive in breeding wetlands 2-3 weeks ahead of females. This gives them plenty of time to sort their territories out among themselves before needing to impress potential mates.

Male Red-winged blackbirds are polygynous, meaning that one male may attract and mate with several females. Studies indicate that females determine where they settle based on habitat characteristics rather than those of the territorial male. In prime habitat and males in such locations may have “harems” as large as 15 (average species-wide is 2-5). This means that many males, especially young ones, fail to gain a territory and breed at all. Instead these “floaters” linger around the periphery of a blackbird colony and hope to mate with females when the dominant males are otherwise occupied. There is extensive variation in the degree to which males provide parental care, primarily as a result of harem size, but nests where both parents feed the young tend to be more successful.

In the fall, adults and young gather in large flocks, often with other blackbirds such as cowbirds and grackles, and forage in agricultural fields. These flocks roost in groups of hundreds in marshes and swamps, and the sight and sound of a flock moving to roost at dusk in late fall is [need words]. By this time, the shiny black-and-red males we’re seen all summer will have molted into a female-like streaked plumage, although when they fly the red epaulets are exposed. Over the winter the brown edges of these fall feathers will gradually wear away to reveal the breeding colors below, and the male Red-winged Blackbirds will be ready to return to your local wetland to start the cycle all over again.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Red-winged Blackbird
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count