Along with the Turkey vulture and the two note call of the Chickadee the arrival of Red-winged blackbirds kicks off spring in all its sweet air, receding snow, and drip filled ponds. Red-wing blackbirds are common across
North America and are symbolic of pond and marsh. In the eastern Red-wing blackbirds winter in large mixed species flocks with Common grackles, Brown-headed cowbirds, Rusty blackbirds, and often European starlings. Found year round as close as U.S. New Jersey the arrival of these noisy blackbirds to New England is a sure sign of spring.
Red-winged blacbirds are aptly named for the well known red “epaulets”, a band of deep red feathers moving to bright orange and fading into yellow. Only the male blackbirds have epaulets and can flare them out when courting a female or announcing territory. The female Red-winged blackbirds are carefully camouflaged in cream and brown stripes making them all but disappear in the reeds and bull rushes in which they nest. Seeing a female red-winged blackbird can be a puzzling event for beginner birdwatchers. In these March days visit any local marsh, pond, or wetland and listen for the distinct, “conk-a-reeeee” song of the newly returned blackbirds, it’s a song that will fill up the warming air all summer long.