Bird GuideBlackbirds and OriolesRed-winged Blackbird

At a Glance

Among our most familiar birds, Red-wings seem to sing their nasal songs in every marsh and wet field from coast to coast. They are notably bold, and several will often attack a larger bird, such as a hawk or crow, that flies over their nesting area. The red shoulder patches of the male, hidden under body feathers much of the time, are brilliantly displayed when he is singing. Outside the nesting season, Red-wings sometimes roost in huge concentrations.
Blackbirds and Orioles, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Present throughout the year in many areas. In the north, migrants appear quite early in spring, with males arriving before females. Migrates in flocks.


7-9 1/2" (18-24 cm). Male's shoulder patches can be obvious (especially in song display) or mostly hidden by body feathers. Patches usually bordered yellow, but in central California ("Bicolored Red-wing"), these can be all red. Females and young very different, streaky brown with buff eyebrow. Resemble sparrows but have different behavior, spikier bill, darker lower belly. See Bobolink.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Orange, Red, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Rounded
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A rich, musical o-ka-leeee!
Call Pattern
Call Type
Chatter, Chirp/Chip, Scream, Trill, Whistle


Breeds in marshes, brushy swamps, hayfields; forages also in cultivated land and along edges of water. Breeds most commonly in freshwater marsh, but also in wooded or brushy swamps, rank weedy fields, hayfields, upper edges of salt marsh. Often forages in other open habitats, such as fields and mudflats; outside the breeding season, flocks gather in farm fields, pastures, feedlots.



3-4, rarely 2-6. Pale blue-green, with markings of black, brown, purple concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 10-12 days.


Both parents feed nestlings (but female does more). Young leave nest about 11-14 days after hatching.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly while walking on ground; also sometimes up in shrubs and trees. Outside the breeding season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other blackbirds and starlings.


Mostly insects and seeds. Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and others; also spiders, millipedes, snails. Majority of adult's annual diet (roughly three-fourths) is seeds, including those of grasses, weeds, and waste grain. Also eats some berries and small fruits.


To defend his territory and attract a mate, male perches on high stalk with feathers fluffed out and tail partly spread, lifts leading edge of wing so that red shoulder patches are prominent, and sings. Also sings in slow, fluttering flight. One male often has more than one mate. Adults are very aggressive in nesting territory, attacking larger birds that approach, and loudly protesting human intruders. Nest: Placed in marsh growth such as cattails or bulrushes, in bushes or saplings close to water, or in dense grass in fields. Nest (built by female) is bulky open cup, lashed to standing vegetation, made of grass, reeds, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine grass.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Abundant and widespread.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Red-winged Blackbird. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Red-winged Blackbird

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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