Red-winged blackbird

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More names for this bird

Anishinaabemowin: Asiginaak

Dakota: Wabdoa

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Agelaius phoeniceus

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

French: Carouge à épaulettes

Spanish: Sargento alirrojo

Male red-winged blackbird with its bill open, perched and signing. Its body is dark black and its shoulder has a patch of brilliant red.
Male red-winged blackbird perched in a leafless tree or shrub.
April 29, 2021, Washington County, Minnesota
Photo © Samuel Taylor, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
iNaturalist observation

About the red-winged blackbird

  • The red-winged blackbird is about the size of a robin. Males are black with red and yellow shoulder patches. Females are brown streaked with buff eyebrows.
  • They eat mostly insects in summer, and in the fall and winter switch to seeds from the likes of cocklebur, ragweed and even corn and wheat.
  • Females lay two to four eggs which are incubated 1½ to two weeks. Young leave the nest 1½ to two weeks after hatching.
  • Fun fact: Sometimes they feed by probing at the bases of aquatic plants with their slender bills, prying them open to get at insects hidden inside.
  • Red-winged blackbirds migrate. Expand the "Migration animation" section below to learn more.

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Migration animation

Click the full-frame icon (lower right corner of video) to play at full size.

Video file

More about eBird's abundance animations

eBird data from 2006-2020. Estimated for 2020. Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, C. Wood, I. Davies, M. Iliff, L. Seitz. 2021. eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2020; Released: 2021. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for changes in red-winged blackbirds' presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year appear and develop.

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Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch and listen for when observing red-winged blackbird phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this bird or collect data in a standardized way.

Flock of about thirty red-winged blackbirds in a leafless tree against a bright blue sky
Male red-winged blackbird on a tall perch with red-sholder feathers puffed up and wings outstretched.
Female red-winged blackbird is streaked brown, with an yellow-orange chin and stripes near the eye.
Femal red-winged blackbird has nesting material in its bill. It is in the concealing vegetation of a wetland.
A red-winged blackbird nest, with three pale eggs, is hidden among the vegetation of a wetland.
Red-winged blackbird fledgling has incompletely formed feathers. Its mouth is open and its begging to be fed.
Wetland scene with a sandhill crane being attacked by a male red-winged blackbird. The crane's bill is open and the blackbird is a blur, in flight.
Two red-winged blackbird at a bird feeder. The background has bright red fall foliage.
A flock of over one hundred red-winged blackbirds flying high against a gray cloudy sky.
Hundreds of red-winged blackbirds flying above a wetland. Many of the birds have bright red shoulders which are visible.

Audio resources

Visit All About Birds for recordings of songs and calls by red-winged blackbirds.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Hubbard County

First seen

  • Earliest: March 6 (occurred in 2000)
  • Average: March 24
  • Latest: April 8 (occurred in 1997)
Scatterplot showing red-winged blackbird phenology observations in Hubbard County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)

Sherburne County


  • Earliest: January 27 (occurred in 2011)
  • Average: March 14
  • Latest: March 31 (occurred in 2001)
Scatterplot showing red-winged blackbird phenology observations in Sherburne County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)