Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Found abundantly throughout North America, these birds arrival in Iowa indicate the early arrival of spring. These medium sized birds are most easily recognizable through the males, who are all black with bright red and yellow shoulder bars. Females are a duller brown color. Males are always out to get noticed, sitting high up and singing out loudly while defending their territory. Females tend to stay much closer to the ground, quietly going about their business. The species is polygamist, with males having multiple female mates, up to 15 in some cases. But ¼ of all siblings in nests in a male’s territory may have a different father than the male whose territory they are in.
During breeding season, the birds are found in wet places such as wetlands, marshes, sedge meadows, and fallow fields. You may even occasionally find them in wooded areas along waterways. During the fall and winter, blackbirds are found in large colonies in agricultural fields, pastures, and grasslands. The birds are known to eat insects, seeds including grains, weedy seeds, and native sunflowers.