The Suitcase Lady


March 24, 2008, 2:08 pm

That handsome guy returned last week. I spotted him alongside the road as I was driving home. His red epaulets were glowing in the late afternoon sun.
Of course, there is no such thing as one Red-winged Blackbird. In the following few days, I spotted dozens more. Redwings are the most common bird in North America with an estimated population of 190 million.
I knew I was guy watching as redwings are dimorphic which simply means a 2 year old can tell the genders apart. The females look like large brown sparrows with long white eyebrows.
Understanding the importance of good real estate, the male redwings arrive before the ladies so they can stake out their territories. While the boys are braving our spring blizzards, the gals are enjoying an extended southern vacation.
Those girls are smart. As soon as they arrive up north, their lives will go into overdrive. Macho males will be fluffing out their red (and yellow) patches and doing some serious wooing. Once the females choose a mate, they will be stuck with all the nest building and egg incubating chores.
Red-winged Blackbird males are polygamists, or in the birding terms, a polygynous species. They loudly defend their territory from other males and predators that threaten their females’ nests and young. When not fending off enemies, the males keep an eye out for more females to add to their harems which may number as high as fifteen ladies.
In the early part of the nesting season, the new dads are too busy flirting to help feed their numerous offspring. As summer winds down, they invest more of their time in fetching bugs for their babies.
But right now the snow is piled high by our driveway. A lone redwing is walking around on the top of a snowbank and pecking sunflower seeds. The lush summer days of abundant women and juicy bugs is still a long way off.
Male redwing Female redwing
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