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Junior Ranger, Jr. Explores Blackbirds

This wildlife activity page is part of a Junior Ranger, Jr. series for ages 3-6. Adults and young children can use some or all of the activities to explore nature together inside and outside the home.

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Male red-winged blackbird displays its red shoulders on a cattail
Male red-winged blackbird at Beaver Marsh.

© Jim Schmidt

Imagine

If you were a male red-winged blackbird, you would have black feathers covering your entire body. On your shoulders are patches of red and yellow. If you were hungry, you would look for insects hiding on wetland plants during the summer. In winter, you would search for seeds.

If you wanted to communicate with other birds, you would flash your shoulder patches and sing CONK-LA-REE. Your mate looks completely different. She is brown with stripes that help her hide from danger.

Black bird with red and yellow patches on its wing.
A complete paper red-winged blackbird

Make

Create your own red-winged blackbird. The colors show that this is a male.

Materials

  • paper
  • glue
  • kid-friendly scissors
  • crayons or markers (black, red, yellow)
  • black sequin or something similar (optional)

Directions

  1. Print the template.
  2. Cut out the parts of the bird.
  3. Color according to the photograph. The main body, wing, and beak are black. The smaller wing patches are yellow and red. (Option: Use colored construction or scrap paper instead.)
  4. First glue the wing to the body. Glue the yellow wing patch to the top of the shoulder. Glue the red wing patch on the yellow one. Glue the beak on the mouth.
  5. Add a fun eye using a sequin, crayon, or marker.

Look/Listen

Hear the male red-winged blackbird call.

Hear a duet by a male and female.

See the male flash its red wing patches. He is defending his territory from other males and trying to attract a female.

Here’s a video of the male flashing his wings.

Can you call like a red-winged blackbird? conk-la-ree!

Move

Watch the video above to see how these male birds display their colors. Make up your own motion and call. Pick a space to be your territory. Advertise yourself with your motion and call. This tells others to keep out!

Find

This songbird lives in marshes and along the edges of ponds and lakes. The males perch on cattails or on top of small trees. The brown-striped females search for food closer to the ground. Nests are hidden within the tall wetland stalks.

Go outside for a short walk. Count all the high places that would make a good perch for a bird that wants to be seen. If you can, visit a marsh, pond, or lake. Put your hands behind your ears. Listen for the sound of the red-winged blackbird, conk-la-ree!

A brown-stipped bird hides in a shrub.

Red-winged blackbird

The brown stripes of a female red-winged blackbird help camouflage her at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. Credit: © Sue Simenc

A black shimmery bird in a shrub.

Common grackle

A common grackle is another type of blackbird at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. Credit: © JJ Prekop

Learn More

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has put together a wonderful collection of bird sounds, photos, and other information. Learn more about the red-winged blackbird.

Last updated: December 8, 2020