Bird Watcher's General Store

Female Redwings - 04/12/02


Dear Bird Folks,

Ever since the end of February I have been seeing lots of male redwing blackbirds, but no females. Where are all the females.

- Tim, Yarmouth

Tim,

Where are all the females? I wish I had a nickel for every time I've asked that question myself. Like you have observed, the male redwings arrive early. Some show up by the end of February and most are here by the middle of March.

The males immediately stake out a territory. If you visit any local marsh you will see the handsome males singing and flashing their bright red wing patches. The males are working hard to defend a territory, yet there aren't any females, in their dull, sparrow-like plumage to be seen. So where are they? The cheap sexist wise crack would be that the females take too long to pack for the trip north. The males got tired of waiting and left without them. However, the more scientific answer is that females are late because they have stopped to shop in all the outlet malls along the way.

When you think about it, the females aren't late, those crazy males are just way too early. The weather, in the middle of March, is much too nasty to be sitting on eggs, so there is no reason for the females to be here and they know it. They let the males get here early and burn off a little steam by having a few territorial fights. Then, when the males and the weather are both a bit more under control, the females arrive ready to set up housekeeping.

By early April the females should all be back and you should not have trouble finding any. But if by the middle of April you still can't find any females, it could be that cheap cologne and that 20 year old leisure suit causing your problems.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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