This epauletted songbird is one of the first to migrate through western Pennsylvania on its way back north and is a welcome sign of spring. Young males in breeding plumage bear only dull orange bands on their shoulders, while full-grown breeding males in our area display the namesake red and yellow bands.
Red-winged blackbird flocks can number in the thousands, and their communal roosting sitesóand combined food needsócan be sizable. Some states have named the red-winged blackbird an agricultural pest because of its attraction to such crops as corn, rice, and sunflower seeds, as the birds can be destructive in such large numbers.
The red-winged blackbird is one of the most abundant species throughout its North American range, where they prefer wetlands or open fields with high grasses. They are often seen clinging to reeds or cattails, seeming to defy gravity as they belt out their mating song while staking their claim to a breeding territory.