Chances are, you've been scolded at one time or another by a red-winged blackbird defending its nest. Perhaps your walk down the bike path took you to close to a nesting pair of red-wings. I'm sure they let you know about it.

Red-winged blackbirds are the most numerous, most conspicuous and easiest to identify (thanks to the bright red wing patch on the male).

They are especially conspicuous in spring as they compete for territories. They are quite beneficial as they eat insects and weed seeds in large quantities.

Other birds are often lumped together with blackbirds. When we see flocks of grackles, starlings and cowbirds, we often assign them all the name of blackbird.

Rusty blackbirds are normally seen during migration time. They have a rusty red cap on their heads and a rusty-sounding song to match. Note the light-colored eyes. The yellow-headed blackbird chooses marshy areas as its habitat. They are endangered in Illinois, but sometimes are seen in northern marshes.They have, however, been recorded as nesting near Havana and Beardstown in central Illinois. In spring, the male bobolink has a yellow patch on the back of its neck and white markings on its back. Bobolinks are solid black underneath. They are commonly seen during migration when they gather in hay fields. Nesting occurs most often in the northern part of the state.

For pictures of birds often mistaken for blackbirds, such as starlings and grackles, click here.
Please see our page of other birds found in the countryside.
photographs by Dennis Oehmke and Chris Young

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