Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Female redwing blackbird

with 33 comments

Female Redwing Blackbird 7224

Look how different the female redwing blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is from the male. Like the previous photograph, this one comes from the Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County, Illinois, on June 7th.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2016 at 5:08 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

33 Responses

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  1. This past Spring was the first time I had seen a female and I was astounded at how different they were from the male. Beautiful bird nevertheless!


    July 22, 2016 at 5:36 AM

    • As different as they are, they seem to have no trouble recognizing each other. I’ve read that most birds don’t have much sense of smell, so I wonder how the males and females recognize each other as being the same species. I guess a lot of it is seeing the parents at the nest when the birds are little.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2016 at 5:49 AM

  2. Steven: You’r right, it is remarkable how different they are. Still, she is a beauty. Thanks for sharing, my friend.


    July 22, 2016 at 6:12 AM

  3. Lovely colouring and pattern.


    July 22, 2016 at 7:40 AM

  4. Great capture, Steve!
    Have a wonderful weekend,


    July 22, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    • I lucked out in getting both a male and a female. Without Melissa I wouldn’t have known they’re the same species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM

  5. Seems it is always the male who gets all the vibrant colours in the bird world doesn’t it? 🙂


    July 22, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    • Yes, that’s generally the way it is in the bird world—for the most part the opposite of the human world.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2016 at 12:19 PM

  6. I suspect I’ve seen a female and thought it was a starling, or even a large sparrow. I never would have guessed that this is a red-winged blackbird. It’s lovely — the patterning in the feathers is so intricate.

    I was curious about redwing vs. red-winged: here’s the Ngram comparison. The Cornell and Audubon sites use red-winged. I don’t suppose it makes any difference since it’s a common name, but it’s interesting.

    Whichever name is preferred, I wonder if it was this bird that gave us one of the best bird-songs ever?


    July 22, 2016 at 7:51 PM

    • I’ve seen my share of the males around Austin, so it’s highly likely I’ve seen some females without recognizing the connection.

      My predilection is for hyphenated and more-formal forms, but somehow in this case I went with redwing rather than red-winged. The language as a whole seems to be moving to simpler and less-formal versions of things, so for once I was trendy.

      I didn’t know till your link and the following article that there’s more to the song “Bye Bye Blackbird” than the chorus:


      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2016 at 9:13 PM

      • There’s a good bit in that article I didn’t know. I grew up with a mother who sang the song, and a father who often played a recording by a male vocalist, but I thought of it as a sunny, moving-from-bad-times-to-good sort of song: rather like “When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along.” Sometimes I think hearing that one sung so often as a child — and singing it — shaped my outlook on life. We’re short on robins, but I still sing it now and then.


        July 23, 2016 at 8:08 AM

        • Oh, the speed with which things and people recede into the past and are so soon forgotten. Just last week I was talking with a 20-something who had never heard of Magellan. More to the point, neither you nor I had heard most of the verses of “”Bye Bye Blackbird,” and that was from only two decades before we were born.

          May you encounter more robins.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 23, 2016 at 8:35 AM

          • Your Magellan tidbit helps give context to a story I heard on NPR this morning. Three Michigan women, who never had been tubing, took off on a trip down the Muskegon river, believing the person at the launch site who told them that the river went in a circle, and if they just kept going, they’d end up back at their car.

            I was going to say they should enroll in a navigation class, but perhaps a third grade geography class would be better. Or a guide.


            July 23, 2016 at 11:19 AM

            • The thing I find hardest to believe in the year 2016 is that not one of the three had her phone with her.

              A river that flows in a circle sounds like the answer to the ancient quest for perpetual motion.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 23, 2016 at 11:37 AM

  7. Oh boy she sure is different! It fascinates me that this is often the case in the bird world ..


    July 22, 2016 at 10:13 PM

  8. She has a certain ‘harumph’ expression around her beak, as though she may be a little fed up about something. In the Pacific, ‘blackbird’ and ‘blackbirding’ have yet another meaning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbirding


    July 23, 2016 at 5:59 AM

    • As I recall, this female was concerned about the nearby eggs in her nest. (Melissa pointed them out to us but I didn’t have a clear line of sight to take pictures of them.)

      I had no idea about the history of blackbirding that your linked article describes. Fiji seems to have been among the most involved places, so, given your connection to the island, it’s understandable that you would have learned about the practice. Did they teach about that when you were in school, or did you find out about it later on your own?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2016 at 7:25 AM

      • I don’t remember learning about blackbirding at school. But it must have been something which was common knowledge because I have been aware of the term for a very long time. Its meaning has deepened for me more recently with access to more information via the internet.


        July 23, 2016 at 7:39 AM

        • Especially when we were young, schools didn’t always teach about the darker episodes in human history. (The pendulum may have swung too far the other way now.) The Internet is a great source of information—provided we can discern which things on it are true. That’s often not an easy task.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 23, 2016 at 7:48 AM

          • Yes, I am always wary about internet sources. In fact I am also wary of non-internet sources.


            July 23, 2016 at 6:37 PM

            • I’ve found mistakes in printed books, too, but fewer than on the Internet. In general older books strike me as more reliable than newer ones because the editing used to be better.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 23, 2016 at 10:49 PM

    • I’ve never heard of blackbirding, although it’s similar to a practice I do know about: shanghaiing, or forced service aboard ship by violent or deceptive means. It’s interesting that a famous Texan, Shanghai Pierce, carries that name. I found his very impressive grave near Palacios on a recent trip. I need to explore his history a bit more.


      July 23, 2016 at 8:18 AM

      • Shanghaiing I’ve heard of. Whatever the name, the practice is ancient—and unfortunately modern as well. Tyranny never goes out of fashion, alas.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 23, 2016 at 8:37 AM

      • Yes, blackbirding and shanghaiing are similar. I look forward to learning more about Shanghai Pierce via one of your well researched blog posts. Another connection between Shanghaiing and Blackbirding…..the shanghai weapon or slingshot. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slingshot My father always had a home made shanghai;I wouldn’t be surprised if a few blackbirds or magpies felt its sting in his boyhood.


        July 23, 2016 at 6:52 PM

  9. Quite often the male of the species is the more attractive or flamboyant to our way of seeing things.

    Steve Gingold

    July 25, 2016 at 4:33 PM

  10. I really like this photo you got of her. The way the cattail leaf curves over her ~ the whole composition is very art deco.


    August 11, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    • If you hadn’t told us that this bird is in the same species as the male, we’d never have guessed it.

      I’m pretty sure this is the first time anyone has ever described a photograph of mine as having an Art Deco composition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2016 at 7:42 AM

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