Saturday, April 4, 2020


Every year, the "Cacophony" visits the farm in all of its splendor and chaos.  For those who are not familiar with us or our tendency to observe and name things with our own words and phrases, this is yet another case where Tammy and I use the word and we both know exactly what the other means.  Meanwhile, you and everyone else just looks confused.  Until we show you this (listen with the sound UP):

We were visited by a fairly large migrating flock of Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Starlings and Cowbirds throughout the day today.  If you look closely at nearly ALL of the trees in the video, you will find that each has a significant number of birds in them.  There were more on the ground back by the barn as well. 

If you listened to our video with the sound up, you can imagine exactly how loud things were as I was working outside amidst the Cacophony.  The higher pitched and longer tones are the calls of the male Red-Winged Blackbird, which is a song both of us like to hear on the farm in late Spring and early Summer.  Though, we have to admit that we like the song more when there aren't quite as many of them trying to get our attention at one time!

Cornell Labs have wonderful birding resources and here is a "bird-cam" that includes a Red-Winged Blackbird singing.  If you want to see more information beyond the video we linked in below, you can take this link.

Most years we have a few pairs of Red-Winged Blackbirds nesting on the edges of our farm, usually in the ditches by the road.  Last year, we had one male that loved to sit on one of our "no spray" signs and sing to us.  However, if we got too close, he'd take flight and hover, scolding us continuously until we backed off.  Both us have memories of Red-Winged Blackbirds being a bit more aggressive when we biked on county roads frequently.  There were at least a couple of occasions where a bird gave Rob a nice little rap on the biking helmet.

Sometimes, we do a little extra reading about things that interest us and I came across an interesting bit of research involving these birds.  If I understand it correctly, the research found that there was higher hatchling success in the prime habitats (such as Sweet Marsh) vs other areas (such as human disturbed areas, like the edges of our farm).  On the other hand, the research seemed to find that population density might be higher in the less desirable habitats - perhaps because these are the less dominant birds of the species in the region.  In other words, more of the new generation of Red-winged Blackbirds come from the prime habitat areas even though the nesting density might be lower.

More Cornell Lab material on these birds makes mention of what appear to be sub-species of Red-winged Blackbirds that have slightly different coloring, etc.  An experiment where hatchlings were moved to different nests seems to show that these differences are more environmental than genetic.  From the site linked at the beginning of this paragraph:

"Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds vary markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was conducted that moved nestlings between populations and found that the chicks grew up to resemble their foster parents. This study indicated that much of the difference seen between populations is the result of different environments rather than different genetic makeups."
We hope you enjoyed reading a bit about a bird we are happy to see on our farm.

And, for those who know us, you might know what we mean when we say,
"Oh look!  A Red-winged Blackbird.... let's have some coffee."

We'll skip the coffee if that's ok with you.  But, we'll still enjoy our avian friend.

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