Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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  Red-winged Blackbird
 
 

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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Passeroidea)
         Nine-primaried Oscines
            Family Icteridae - New World Blackbirds, Orioles, Meadowlarks

  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Passeroids include the Nine-primaried Oscines, pipits, Old World sparrows, and weavers.
Nine-primaried Oscines include New World warblers, icterids (New World blackbirds), emberizines (buntings), tanagers, cardinalines (cardinals), and fringillines (finches).
Icterids are small to medium-sized nine-primaried oscines of the New World. They have a stout and straight bill, often thrust into the food source, then opened. Some are fruit eaters while others forage on the ground. Their predominant plumage color is usually black and they have strong legs and feet. They form mixed species flocks in winter and many species are social - some nesting in colonies. 
     
     
  Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
 
     Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
       YEAR ROUND - Common, breeds / Common
          MARSHES (fresh, brackish), UPLAND FIELDS, PASTURE
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   Red-winged Blackbirds are dark birds. Males are a dull black (not iridescent) with orange and red lesser coverts and pale yellow median coverts. However, the coverts are often largely concealed. They are actively displayed in social and reproductive situations.
   Females are smaller than males and are heavily streaked. Males are usually around and this helps in their identification - outside the breeding period, flocks are common and males may separate from the females and young. They join other blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds, and starlings in large mixed winter flocks.
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird female. Corkscrew Swamp, FL. Courtesy Joe Stevenot
 
Red-winged Blackbird male.
Payne's Prarie Park, FL
Photo by Ed Konrad
 
 

      The Red-winged Blackbird may be the most numerous land bird in North America.

       
  RANGE:  Red-winged Blackbirds breed from Nova Scotia west across Canada to northern Northwest Territories, southern Alberta, coastal Alaska, south to Baja and into Mexico, then east across the Gulf and all of Florida and up the Atlantic coast. They withdraw from most of Canada and the northern Appalachians in winter and may move south to Costa Rica.
   Originally, these blackbirds were largely restricted to marshes and coastal swamps. However, with the clearing of extensive tracts of land for agriculture, they successfully moved into upland habitats and are common in hedge-rows and margins in farmlands and suburbs.
  BREEDING: Polygynous. The red-wing female takes 3-6 days to build a nest often near or over water, usually in vegetation or a low shrub. It is woven using sedges and grass and lined with fine grass and rushes. The female lays 3-4 (2-6) eggs and incubates them for 10-13 days. Development is altricial. Young leave the nest after 11-14 days and are fed by the female (and the male to some extent). Young can swim when 5-6 days of age (in case they get dumped from the nest). They usually raise 2-3 broods.
   Males are strongly territorial and are polygynous - their territory covers the nesting area of their mates. They are occasionally parasitized by cowbirds.
  DIET: They eat insects and a few spiders and seeds - rarely fruit. Young are fed insects. They forage on the ground - sometimes in shrubs or trees. Outside the breeding season, they are usually found in flocks - often containing other blackbirds and starlings.
  VOICE: Their song is a cheery "o-kalee" and can be heard for some distance. They also have a low dry "kek," uttered as they fly across the marsh. In their displays, males spread their tail, droop their wings displaying the colored "epaulets" and lean (bow) toward the female while uttering their song. Away from their territories, the epaulets may be largely covered.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - common year round (breeds). Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident.
         Cape Romain - common/common (breeds)/abundant/abundant. Huntington Beach - common, year-round.
      Caw Caw - abundant year-round, breeds. ACE - abundant year-round, breeds.
   CBC: ACE 7266, 27002, 8105, 4479, 260670, 1317, 37451, 4530; Charleston 5422, 614, 496, 1253, 695, 711, 1495, 933;
            St Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 163, 132; Hilton Head 2524, 2222, 3425, 5247, 11466, 4535, 841, 2184;
               Sun City/Okatie 314, 262, 812, 2428, 1797, 1582, 259, 444:
            McClellanville 995, 1273, 1195, 468, nc, 8839, 1850, 12433; Winyah Bay x, x, 13085, 2282, 940, 1813, 1177, 3220;
               Litchfield/Pawley's 7265, 4016, 11513, 1185, 4826, 5369, 6476, 1973.
   SCBBA: All counties. Abundant.
   P&G: Resident. Common, summer. Very common, winter. Maxima are inland - see CBC for coastal numbers. Egg dates: 25 April - 20 July.
   M&P: Winter roost at Boscobel Country Club near Anderson in the 50s and early 60s were estimated to contain 3-5 M birds. Over half of these were Common Grackles and European Starlings were nearly as abundant. Red-winged Blackbirds in this flock were probably 750,000 - 1,000,000 birds. Coastal roosts include 100,000 blackbirds with grackles along the Pee Dee, 12 December 1987, and 50,000 (mostly adult males) roosted at Bennettsville on 6 January 1988. See 2007-08 ACE Basin count above...
   Avendex: No records.
   Potter: Common to abundant permanent resident of fields, marshes, lake edges, and other open habitats. Migrants from more northern areas make the species extremely abundant during winter in the vicinity of roosting places.
    ●  Common. On Seabrook, Red-winged Blackbirds are residents around the salt- and fresh-water marshes. During the winter, they form flocks and may join starlings and other icterids in large feeding associations. Groups are often seen at the Equestrian Center (there's still energy in the feces of horses and other animals).
   Red-wings tell an interesting story of adaptation to man - their original habitats were in marshes and wet-lands. With the clearing of land for row crops, they moved into upland areas and are now widely distributed around farms and pastures.
   There are two interesting geographic variants. The Bicolored Blackbird, A. p. gubernator, is resident in the Mexican Plateau and has orange-red lesser coverts and yellowish median coverts (the red in the wing is fringed with yellow). The Tricolored Blackbird, A. tricolor, is a coastal population in Oregon and California south to Baja. They have buffy to white median coverts and dark red lesser coverts and a thinner bill. Males of these two populations look much alike but female tricoloreds are a cold gray overall and lack any buffy cast.
   As an aside, Red-winged Blackbirds are not fun to catch in mist nets. They are strong and their claws are needle sharp - they will bury them in the flesh of your hand if you let them. Use care!
       
    Banner - male Red-winged Blackbird. Deveaux Banks?
       
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