Red-winged Blackbird – Feeding in a rice field Agelaius phoenicens
December – Texas
L=8.75” ...... WS=13” ....... WT=1.8 oz
Order: Passeriformes (Passerine Birds)
Family: Icteridae (Blackbirds, Orioles, Allies)
The Red-winged Blackbird is probably the most abundant bird in North America with a U.S. population estimated at over 200 million. Migration occurs from the northern portion of the breeding range to the southern portion. Accordingly, populations in the southern U.S. increase substantially during the winter months.
This blackbird is well known for having huge roosting groups, which can exceed 1 million birds in the non-breeding season, and for damaging important food crops such as corn, sunflowers, and rice. In the accompanying photograph a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds were feeding in rice fields, some of which had already been harvested and some of which had not. The local farmers take no extraordinary actions against these flocks but use a simple two-part strategy - (i) all farmers in the area plant concurrently and (ii) harvests are timed to occur before the onslaught of migrating birds. When this strategy is employed the farmers claim losses to blackbirds of 25% of the crop. When a isolated field is harvested late, as was the case in this situation, losses generally run in excess of 90%.