Brooklyn Bird Watch: June 30
Red Winged Blackbird. Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Today, Brooklyn Bird Watch features an excellent Heather Wolf photo of the male Red Winged Blackbird. On August 23, of last year Brooklyn Bird Watch featured Ms. Wolf’s photo of the female Red Winged Blackbird. It appears she finally got a shot of the male, and it’s a good one.
In Ms Wolf’s new photo the male bird is perched on the edge of the nest, probably having just delivered some food to the female. One also gets a good glimpse of the fascinating nest structure. Building a nest like that requires the female to wrap and tie secure flexible strips of whatever-that-is to the marsh reeds, then use those strips through which to cross weave vegetation to create the bottom of a cup structure to hold the eggs.
So the females “build the nest by winding stringy plant material around several close, upright stems and weaving in a platform of coarse, wet vegetation. Around and over this she adds more wet leaves and decayed wood, plastering the inside with mud to make a cup. Finally, she lines the cup with fine, dry grasses.”
Generally, people probably don’t know that many twig based bird nests are designed to be elastic and actually expand as the chicks grow. By the way, birds are not taught to build a nest, the skill comes from a combination of instinct and learning from elders. Many birds of the same species have different building techniques, depending on their experience. To read something interesting about bird nest building, click here.
Some say that the Red Winged Blackbird is the most abundant land bird in North America. Wikipedia says that the Red Winged Blackbird is the “best studied wild bird species in the world.” The male is all black with a striking red shoulder and yellow wing bar, while the female is a nondescript dark brown. Seeds and insects make up the bulk of the red-winged blackbird’s diet.