Preparing To Set Up His Harem

Male red-winged blackbird (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

15 March 2023

The guys are back in town! Male red-winged blackbirds returned to western Pennsylvania early this month to get a jump on the breeding season. Males arrive 2-4 weeks before the females in order to shake down who owns what territory before the ladies get here.

Male red-winged blackbird claiming territory (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The best territories are in the middle of a marsh and claiming a good one is extremely important. When the females arrive they chose a mate based in part on the quality of his territory. If the male and his territory are exceptional, up to 15 females join his harem.

Female red-winged blackbird with nesting material (photo fro Wikimedia Commons)

According to Birds of the World, experiments have shown that females prefer a harem on good territory to being the lone mate of a male on poor territory. Female red-winged blackbirds would rather be one of many wives than alone with one male in a lousy home. With that in mind the males are getting ready to set up their harems.

Watch for the arrival of female red-winged blackbirds in late March or early April. You’ll hear the boisterous clamor of males when they see the flocks of females.

This 3-minute video shows red-winged blackbird behavior in the spring.

video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology on YouTube

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology on YouTube; click on the captions to see the originals)

One thought on “Preparing To Set Up His Harem

  1. I golf on a course with a marsh in the middle. The red winged blackbirds have particular disdain for me. I’m taking it personally. It doesn’t matter if I’m walking the course or riding in a cart, I am always reprimanded. 😉

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