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Red-wings and Yellow-heads

© Denny Granstrand View Large

The Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar denizen of cattail marshes throughout Washington. In marshes east of the Cascades, Red-wings must share space with a larger cousin, the Yellow-headed Blackbird. The two species don't share evenly. Zoologist and blackbird expert Gordon Orians writes: "When Yellowheads arrive on their breeding marshes, they usually evict already established male Red-wings from their territories." Learn more about the research. Hear more blackbird songs at The Macaulay Library.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Red-wings and Yellow-heads

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!
 [Red-winged Blackbird song]
 The Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar denizen of cattail marshes throughout Washington. Its throaty, gurgling songs ring out from late winter right through much of the summer. [Red-winged Blackbird song]
 In marshes east of the Cascades, Red-winged Blackbirds must share space with a larger cousin. Here, the voice of the Red-wing [Red-winged Blackbird song] is joined by that of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. [Yellow-headed Blackbird song]
 The two blackbird species don’t share evenly. Zoologist and blackbird expert Gordon Orians writes: “When Yellowheads arrive on their breeding marshes, they usually evict already established male Red-wings from their territories.” The Red-wings are relegated to the less productive, shoreward edge of the marsh. [Medley of both blackbird songs]
 The clangor of the Yellow-headed Blackbird’s song elicits mixed reviews. [Yellow-headed Blackbird song] Some enjoy its guttural, clanking comedy of notes. Others find it wholly disagreeable, a disgrace to the same bird family that produces the wonderful song of the meadowlark. [Western Meadowlark song]
 You’ll have to decide for yourself on the song’s merits, but it’s clear that female Yellow-headed Blackbirds find it irresistible. [Yellow-headed Blackbird song]
 You can listen to these songs again—and others, too—on our web site, BirdNote.org. I’m Frank Corrado.
###

Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Red-winged Blackbird song recorded by W.W.H. Gunn. Yellow-headed Blackbird recorded by G.A. Keller.  Western Meadowlark song recorded by W.R. Fish.
Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbird medley recorded by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2007 Tune In to Nature.org        Revised for June 2009

ID# 060707blackbirds2KPLU

Quotation from Gordon Orians. Blackbirds of the Americas. With drawings by Tony Angell. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985, p. 44.

 

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