(Chelsea Update would like to thank Tom Hodgson and the Waterloo Natural History Association for the photos and information in this column.)
(Publisher’s note: This bird is correctly named a Red-winged Blackbird and this has been corrected throughout this story.)
The Chelsea area marshes have been pretty quiet these winter months, as most of the summer occupants fled well ahead of the cold and snow. Now they are beginning to return.
The Red-winged Blackbird is one of the first birds to return to the area. The males arrive in mid-March to claim territories among the cattails and marsh grasses in local wetlands both large and small.
The male is a handsome bird, jet black except for bright red shoulder patches and yellow wing bars. For the next couple of weeks, male red-wings will be singing and displaying their colors to establish territories in anticipation of the return of the females.
Once the females arrive the displays will increase. Males will puff up their shoulder patches as they sing in hopes of attracting as many females to their territories as possible. The most successful males may attract as many as five or six females.
The drab females’ colors are not designed to impress, but to hide so their nests will not be discovered by predators. Those who live or travel near area marshes will soon be enjoying the loud “konk-a-ree” songs of the males and the flashes of reds as they display their colors.
Those who would like to watch and listen to a singing male Red-winged Blackbird click here.