Thursday, March 17, 2011

Return of the Red-wings

Watercolor   Red-winged Blackbird  © 2011  Sally Wickham

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March is a fickle month.  Many days are below freezing and storms can dump several feet of snow.  Other days the sun begins to radiate heat as well as light;  skunks arouse and their odor lays like  a heavy fog;  maple trees relax and their sap begins to flow. Snow Buntings leave for the arctic tundra and an army of  male  Red-winged Blackbirds fly in ready to do battle for a prime piece of real estate.

The male redwings, aka “little generals,” have a military appearance.  Their uniform is jet black with scarlet epaulets underlined with a pale yellow stripe. They like to flock together in a unit;  all at the feeder;  all singing in a chorus in the tree;  all gliding around officially announcing that spring has arrived--or almost.  Their battle ground lies under a deep covering of snow but now they are mingling with  an occasional skirmish.  The real war begins when the females arrive in a month or so. But they will not be fighting for love.  It’s all about territory.  After the battle,  the female redwings decide where it is they would like to live. It’s a question of where, not who.

Yesterday I  watched a group of nine or ten  male  redwings eating off the ground under the feeder.  They scuttled around looking for seeds.  Most of the males had their red epaulets hidden with only the yellow showing.  One strutted around showing off his colors and spreading out his wings like a cape.  He frightened   one small group away and then threatened another.   They  also fled.  Within seconds, he flew to join them.  I guess that it’s  not fun to spar without any partners.  

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