Treasures of Oz

Celebrating the Natural Gems of Ozaukee County


Red-winged Blackbird and Our Clinging Hope for Spring

Written by Paul Gutelius
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Remember when we woke up to above freezing temperatures with no snow or frost on the ground? Yea me neither, but don’t despair, it may feel like we will never see spring again but spring is coming. I promise. In fact it is almost here!

MODO Rebecca Sher

 All you have to do is walk outside in the morning and you’ll hear it, the birds are awake. Their bodies are telling them it is time to sing! Everyone is in on the act, the House Finches greet me the second I walk out my apartment building door. American Robins are already setting up territories (although right now it is still more about finding food). The Mourning Doves have started their soft come-hither coos while the Common Grackles are whistling and squeaking away.

But the one bird that always tells me spring is here is the Red-winged Blackbird. Of all the spring bird songs and noises this beautiful bird’s conk-la-ree is by far my favorite. In honor of the return of the Red-winged Blackbird and our hope that spring will eventually show up, here are just a few of my favorite Red-winged Blackbird memories.


Harrington Beach State Park

 As a young child I was introduced to birds through our front picture window, my Mom will tell you my first real word was Ickadee. In case you are wondering that's Becca kid speak for Black-capped Chickadee. As the years went by my interests changed and astronomy took over but in 2010 I got back to my roots and realized the birds were still there. One of my first moves was to set up an eBird account. eBird is an online database that allows you to enter your own bird sightings and see the bird sightings of others. My first ever eBird recorded Red-winged Blackbird sighting was at Harrington Beach State Park on May 14, 2010. I'd love to tell you I remember that particular bird or day but I can't. Red-winged Blackbirds have been part of my life; my seasonal time keepers since "Ickadee" was my favorite word. But what this memory does mark is the day I brought RWBBs into my birding life, they were now a species to be observed, learned about, and studied. What a great day!


So what's so special about the Red-winged Blackbirds you may ask? In my opinion the answer to that is everything! Check out the Cool Facts section on the Life History page on Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site. If the Cool Facts aren't enough, check out the Nest Description. These birds literally weave their nests. Later this season I'll try to get some photos to share because it is an impressive sight! In the four years that I've been a serious birder I've recorded over 8600 Red-winged Blackbirds in 4 states, 2400 of those birds were recorded in our own Ozaukee County! If you want to check this cool species out for yourself I suggest taking a hike on the boardwalk at Lion's Den Gorge or walking around any of the great ponds at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, you won't be sorry.

Click here to see and hear Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds squeaking and talking away from the tops of trees in Northern Ozaukee County.

Red-winged Blackbird Bathing

 One of my long time goals has been to capture a quality photo of a Red-winged Blackbird. Last Thursday, March 20 2014 I succeeded. While cruising the back roads with my birding partner in crime Seth Cutright we happened upon a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds bathing in newly melted field puddles. I've never seen so many Red-winged Blackbirds bathing at one time. Boy were those birds ever making a ruckus! It was a wonderful sight to see, the sunset light really set off the reds and yellows in the wing bar and the birds were obviously enjoying the water and warmer temperatures! Moments like this help remind me that spring is coming; soon there will be puddles all over the place. Keep your eyes peeled because you never know what you might see.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this post as much as I've enjoyed sharing my birding adventures with you. Please let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you!