Field Studies You Can Try
If red-winged blackbirds nest near you, here are some field observations
you can make. But only do this BEFORE redwings actually start nesting.
Once they are feeding babies, it's best to leave them alone to take care
of their young.
Males display their red wing patches in territorial displays.
Visit a Red-winged Blackbird territory each day at about the same time
(early morning or late afternoon), choose one nearby male and count
the number of times he displays in a 10 minute period. Find
him each day (he'll be in the same area) and count his displays for
10 minutes each day. Graph this number for as many days as you can
over the next few weeks. You'll know the females have arrived when
these territorial displays intensify. Females look completely different
from males--more like large sparrows.
- Red-winged Blackbirds SEE RED. If you can
visit a place where red-wings nest, try
wearing different clothes to see if it makes a difference.
One day wear bright red and see if a bird displays
more or is even attracted to you. One spring a Red-winged
Blackbird even attacked a Journey North writer's bike
helmet that had red stripes!
For a fun class experiment, students
can make Red-winged
Blackbird "action figures" out
of paper mache', old socks, wadded
up paper, or whatever other materials
you can think of. Make each one black,
with red patches, and tie each one
on its own branch. Then take a hike
to the edge of a nearby Red-winged
Blackbird display area and set them
out in a long line.
Blackbird Action Figure
lurks in a tree.
- Do real redwings approach these models?
- Do they attack any of them?
- How realistic do the models have to be to attract redwings?
you have one or two successful "models," try
covering up the red patches and see what the redwings do.
- Red-winged Blackbirds watch for crows. When you're looking
at redwings, watch for any crows flying overhead. If redwings see a
crow, what do they do? Why do you think they do this?