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Old Tuesday 1st July 2014, 16:18   #1
mamurray76
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Red-wing Backbird, atypical females?

I am renting a cabin in central MN and have feeders out that are mostly visited by RWB. There are literally dozens of males that show up. The odd thing is that I have not seen a single female. At least not the typical female with the striped breast. What I do see are many solid light to medium brown birds that look like female cowbirds. There haven't been any male cowbirds though.

So my question is are these a variant of the RWB female, or is it a female of one species congregating with a male of another.

Thanks for any thoughts.
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Old Wednesday 2nd July 2014, 10:47   #2
Bird_Bill
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Hello mamurray76, welcome to BF.
An image or two could help to clarify, but of course, not always possible. Female RWB could still be on nest, though it seems a bit late. Behaviorally, the females are far more skittish than males. In appearance, hatch year RWB of both sexes can look very similar, almost "streaked sparrow like". I'm directly downstream, on the outlet of Lake Itasca, and for some unexplained reason, always have far more male RWB, versus females at the feeders.

Not sure how rural your location is. Newly fledged Euro. Starlings can look similar to adult female Brown-headed cowbirds, in color. In a bent over posture, and seen from a distance, a first impression can be that of a F-CB. Once it's upright, or mannerisms are seen more closely, it becomes apparent. If you're rural, wouldn't expect to encounter many starlings there. Common Grackle fledges are another bird, that seen out the context of scale, can resemble a F-CB in color.

A page on RWB plumage >>here<<
Allaboutbirds, North American Icterids (Black birds) and allies >>here<<
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Old Wednesday 2nd July 2014, 18:46   #3
mamurray76
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Thanks Bird_Bill

Great suggestions! Unfortunately they don't seem to apply in this circumstance.

My location is extremely rural and I haven't seen any sign of Starlings or Grackles.

The cabin is on a lake with a large marsh nearby that the RWBs seem to be nesting on. It is mostly wooded and doesn't get many birds more commonly seen in open areas.

I haven't been able to get a good picture but will continue to try. I know that it is common to see more males than females with RWBs, but I find it a little strange that I haven't seen any. These mystery brown (females?) seem to interact closely with the males that are present.
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