Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Red Winged Blackbird
So many blackbirds. On a recent visit, I went to check out the loud and beautiful breeding calls of the Red Winged Blackbirds at the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson off of Prince Road.
Today I learned about many things.  My eyes are sharper to detail now and this place is like a soap opera on TV.  All you have to do is watch it all go down.  Commercial free.  I try to be good and not talk to many birders on the trail, but once in awhile I break down and ask my one big question for the day which was....
"Why are some of the reds on different birds brighter than others?"  The nice lady told me that the closer they get to breeding season; the redder the tips of the wings get.  And those tips are called epaulets.  Like I said, something new everyday.  The males are territorial.  He can have up to 10 females in his area to protect.
But if you look deeper into the wetlands, you'll notice a segregation of different kinds of blackbirds.  Not only did I see the Red Winged Blackbird, but also the Yellow Headed Blackbird......
When they flew amongst the reeds, it was quite beautiful.
But at times, it was hard to distiguish with all the fast fluttering who was who!
Because from a distance, you could only see black.
The calls were different, but there was one thing that they both had in common....the reeds.  However they all stayed in their own colonies. It was like "the hood" but with birds:)
As the sun began to set over the Catalinas, the blackbirds flew more and more around the wetlands.
And as the sun set, their calls were drowned out by all the other birds in the area.
....And so it began.....settling down somewhere safe.  Somewhere protected. And are you ready?  Stupid newbie. Get ready.  Look what I learned today:)  Every beginner has had this issue including me....
Female Red Wing Blackbird
What you're looking at here is not a Sparrow or an Eurasian Quail but the female Red Wing Blackbird!!!  Was that a shocker!
Yellow Headed Blackbird
They too also nestled in the reeds because the ominous darkness would slowly take over the lands.
Because lurking around twilight......
.....two Harrison Hawks waited to make their kill.  At first they nonchalantly landed on the radio towers above.  But like most Harrison Hawks do, they work in unison and plan their strikes together. And so it began.....
....the hawk flew towards the wetlands and went out to make the kill.  The blackbirds flew in crazy patterns all around me......a bobcat even jutted out of the bushes and then turned around......
.....the other hawk sat waiting....
.....and eventually the sunset and the drama would end before nightfall.  Did the Harrison Hawk catch a meal before sunset?  Will the blackbirds find love?  Did the bobcat catch a duck for dinner? Like I said, it's better than any daytime drama on TV......and it won't be cancelled:)  More tomorrow.


  1. There are some great photos there Chris - its nice to see blackbirds with some colour! The fun and enthusiasm you are getting from your birdwatching comes across so well.

  2. You have some really beautiful shots here! I do love the call of the red winged blackbird. The hawks added so much drama to what was a lovely, peaceful scene.

  3. Beautiful shots!
    I've never seen redwinged blackbirds in real.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. oh my..such great play by play
    I knew that was a female....we have them here too and I love their noiseyness..(Sp?) But I have never seen a yellow headed one...super!
    and did you say bobcat? no way....how cool is that
    harrison hawks...never saw them either...but I'm not a fan of what they do...although I know it is all about balance in nature...and they have to eat too and may have young to feed..I know...but I don't have to like it
    Wonderful post....

  5. Awesome! I've still not seen a Yellow-Heaed, it's a nemesis of mine. Great photos and information, cheers!

  6. ha ha. laughing at the shock of the female blackbird. :)

    LOVE that you got to see yellow-headeds! SO wonderful! don't get them here!

  7. Those Yellow Headed Buntings are striking birds :-)

  8. Lots of birds in your blog, superb photographs.

  9. Great photos. We have red winged black birds here too and I see them around the lake where I walk. The ones here have just a touch of yellow on their wings too.

  10. I love the way the males put on their colours to impress the females!

  11. What a melodramatic tale you told today. I love the red winged blackbirds. Today while I was walking the dog a hawk was circling overhead - yes I felt a little paranoid!

  12. Awesome post.... Isn't bird-watching just tremendous???? Like you said, it's better than a soap opera!!!!! Like so many birds, the females do look very different from the colorful males.

    Have you ever seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak? The male is a gorgeous black and red ---and the female is brown and white (similar to the female Blackbird).

    Bet you will visit that area again!!!! I would!!!

    Thanks for the great photos.

  13. These pictures remind me of course of the Chandler Oasis Park of course. All except for the antennas of course!
    Great pictures which require attention and patience!

  14. You captured some awesome bird shots. We use to have quite a few black birds that I loved to watch.
    I look forward to more wildlife drama.

  15. Love your red wing blackbird photos!

  16. The local marshes can be thick with red wing blackbirds. There is nothing like their call.

  17. The local marshes can be thick with red wing blackbirds. There is nothing like their call.

  18. Beautiful shots! The Red-Winged Blackbirds are singing here too. Love the metallic quality of their songs.


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