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Do male Red-Wing Blackbirds feed their females?

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Old Friday 17th April 2020, 23:59   #1
markalias
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Do male Red-Wing Blackbirds feed their females?

I'm new here but I came to ask this question. I live in upstate NY (on the Mohawk River near Albany), get tons of male RW blackbirds at my platform feeder, but I rarely get a female.

I know the males have multiple females, so there might even be more females than males around. Do they have different diets, or are the males feeding the females?
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Old Saturday 18th April 2020, 23:03   #2
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Still a mystery but I did find a detailed paper on Red-Winged Blackbirds from 1956 in which the author mentions courtship feeding among many other things.

In the study area described in the paper, there were only half as many males as females, so the fact that I get only males to my feeders this month, and hardly any females any time, is even more curious.

https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/f...0005-p0037.pdf

Quote:
COURTSHIP FEEDING
In many species of birds the male feeds the female during courtship or
during incubation. Usually the male brings food to the female, which
begs like a young bird (Lack, 1940). I observed no signs of courtship
feeding in the Redwing although it has been reported for the following
icterids : Baltimore Oriole (Brackbill, 1941)) Yellow-headed Blackbird
(Roberts, 1909:374), Rusty Blackbird, Euphagus caroZim.us, (Kennard, 1920:
420)) Melodious Blackbird, Dives dives, (Kendeigh, 1952:271), and the
Brewers Blackbird (Williams, 1952:13-14)

Last edited by markalias : Saturday 18th April 2020 at 23:35.
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Old Sunday 19th April 2020, 07:14   #3
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I had hoped someone else might answer your question before I stuck my oar in, but just so as you know you're not talking to yourself....I had dozens of female Red-winged Blackbirds at a garden feeder on a 10-day trip to Canada last spring.
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Old Sunday 19th April 2020, 12:25   #4
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Thanks, Britseye. I've had this feeder up for years and I've gotten what I thought were females in the past, just fewer of them than males, but maybe at least some of those were juveniles.

I'm right on the water with a small island of reeds just a few hundred feet away, which I assumed was where they were making their nests.

I'll have to make notes this year and record the dates for when I see the first juveniles and/or females and if I can distinguish them from each other. At this point, I'm thinking they're either not nesting here or the males are feeding the females and they'll all come to the feeder after fledging.
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Old Sunday 19th April 2020, 22:10   #5
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I think part of the mystery is solved.

Today I saw a male take a sunflower seed from the feeder and carry it over and disappear into a spot in the reeds where there must be a nest. Some birds like chickadees and woodpeckers take seeds and fly somewhere else to eat them, but not RW Blackbirds. I think this one must have brought the seed to one of its mates.
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Old Sunday 19th April 2020, 22:27   #6
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Upstate New York? Is it possible all your Red-winged Blackbirds move south for the winter and the males have only just come back as temperatures start rising ? I know there's a few species - I think American Kestrel being a prime example - where males both winter further north, and move back to breeding sites a week ahead of the females. Maybe? Maybe not?
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Old Sunday 19th April 2020, 23:05   #7
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I wondered about that, Britseye. I didn't make a note of when I first saw them this year, but last year it was on March 12th. It's been a cold spring here, but that's 5 weeks.

I'll keep an eye out (what else do I have to do these days?) and will update this thread when I see females or if I find any research that suggests that they practice courtship feeding.

As for this forum, I think I'll hang around in the meantime. I've been feeding birds for almost 30 years, but lately I've been reading books and studying them in more depth, and there are many knowledgeable people here!

Thanks for the replies.
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Old Friday 24th April 2020, 09:49   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Britseye View Post
Upstate New York? Is it possible all your Red-winged Blackbirds move south for the winter and the males have only just come back as temperatures start rising ? I know there's a few species - I think American Kestrel being a prime example - where males both winter further north, and move back to breeding sites a week ahead of the females. Maybe? Maybe not?
Yes indeed. The males migrate in multiple waves; there's an early group that will stop to rest and feed for a week, then push on north, then another wave of males comes by later. The last wave spends a week or so establishing territory before the females arrive.
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Old Tuesday 2nd June 2020, 23:47   #9
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I promised to report back, and I've seen females at my feeders for over a week now. No fledglings yet, I don't think, but the fact that the females weren't here while the males were all over the feeders during breeding season made me wonder if the males were feeding the females. I may be wrong, but I think this observation indicates that that's what they do. I haven't been able to find it anywhere, but unless the males and females have a different diet during breeding season, it's the only explanation I can think of.
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Old Wednesday 3rd June 2020, 01:29   #10
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Or the eggs have hatched and now they are both feeding the fledglings
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Old Sunday 14th June 2020, 16:20   #11
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we have had a pair of red wings at our peanut feeder for a couple years . a week or so ago they started showing up with three or four more that i think are their young and all look similar to the female at this time . probably won't see them again . since i posted about a pair of orioles eating from hummingbird feeder and a pair of blue birds eating peanut butter here i've not seen them again . . . peace
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