Birds of the Glebe, Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbird, one of the first birds of spring.  Photo: Jeanette Rive


On our never-ending walks to get our exercise during this pandemic, many of us have developed a greater appreciation of the birds in our neighbourhood. Our quieter pandemic streets have allowed us to hear bird songs, and more of us have installed feeders in our gardens.

Luckily, we also have nature in our backyards – both in our urban gardens and in the parks nearby. The Canal, Brown’s Inlet, Patterson Creek, Dow’s Lake, the Arboretum, the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens and the Experimental Farm are gems to be savoured, explored and enjoyed as havens for birds.

Each month for the next while, the Glebe Report will highlight a familiar bird found in the neighbourhood and perhaps introduce you to a new species.

Feel free to send in your bird sightings with photo to

Happy birding!

Red-Winged Blackbird, harbinger of spring

By Jeanette Rive

The red-winged blackbird is one of the first birds to head north after winter. Who hasn’t heard their nasal, gurgling conk-la-ree song from the marshy area around Dow’s Lake or Brown’s Inlet announcing, “I’m back, I’m beautiful”?

Males are boldly coloured, glossy black with scarlet and yellow shoulder patches; the female, much shyer, brownish striped in colour, spends much of her time foraging around the ground, finding grasses and twigs with which to build her nest, a cup-like structure attached to standing vegetation like cattails.

They are also territorial, especially around nesting time. There have been many reports over the years of runners, bikers and walkers being dive-bombed by the blackbird if someone gets too close to the nesting area. Remember the dive-bombing red-winged blackbirds near the Canal Ritz attacking any joggers who sported a ponytail?

The male is highly polygynous; that is to say, he has multiple females nesting on his territory, though there is no guarantee that he has sired the eggs in the nest! Usually there are three to four blue-green eggs laid; they are incubated for about two weeks. Both parents will feed the young, and the chicks will leave the nest after 11 to 14 days – a remarkable growth rate.

Jeanette Rive is a Glebe bird enthusiast and Glebe Report proofreader with a lethal eye for error.

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