Red-winged Blackbird — Hey, Ladies, Look At Me!

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A few days ago, I posted an image of a male Red-winged Blackbird happily perching amidst a group of females.  This is breeding season for these birds and the males are working overtime to attract as many females as they can.  Red-winged Blackbirds are promiscuous.  A male will mate with as many as 15 females and it’s not unusual for a female to mate with multiple males.

This time of year the males expend a tremendous amount of energy singing in order to attract possible mates.  A male will ascend to a high point on a tree or shrub, flash his red and gold epaulets, and sing.  One of these little birds has a truly impressive voice.  When one sings — usually, at least a couple of times a minute — he will inhale a huge quantity of air, and release it explosively as he bellows his three-note song.  A Red-winged Blackbird is extremely loud when he sings.  When multiple birds are singing at once, not unusual, the resulting noise can be eardrum-shattering.

I don’t know how females decide which of the singing males will be a suitable mate.  Perhaps, they can discern subtle differences in the quality of the males’ songs.  Or, perhaps, it is the gestalt — the overall presentation of song plus bling — that sets the females hearts a’flutter.  In any event, these birds put on quite a spectacle when they sing.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 400 mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 640, f5.6 @ 1/2500.  

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