Red-winged Blackbirds breeding in March

Mark Holmgren

Today Nick L. reported many Red-winged Blackbirds building nests at the Dune Pond at Coal Oil Point Reserve.  I have also seen Red-wings in winter in perfectly good habitats assuming territories and displaying as though they are taking the first steps toward breeding. Following up on those observations in spring, however, have shown that sometimes the birds leave these habitats. I couldn’t figure out what caused them to abandon these early breeding efforts.

I looked at the Birds of North America species account for RwBl. It turns out that “ . . . only the female builds the nest, although the male performs Symbolic Nest-site Selection Display, during which the male picks up and manipulates nest material; similarly, during the Symbolic Nest-building Display, nest-building movements are performed in an existing nest.”

I then checked the Santa Barbara Breeding Bird Study. Of 92 RwBl breeding records only two records indicate nest building in late March and the majority of nest building occurs after mid April. Therefore, if Nick saw females building the nest, that would be a very early record that we would want to get into the BBS database.

Would someone offer to follow up on these indications of early nest building at the Dune Pond and document nesting here and in other marshes in the county?   

To find those marshes where Red-winged Blackbirds have nested, use the BBS.

Go to    Stay in Table mode.

Click on the blue Filter button, choose  4-letter Code > type RWBL, click Find

Set a 2nd Filter. 

Click on the blue Filter button, choose Locality

Scroll up and down through the locations to find areas you wish to go to. Click the box to the left of that, or those, locations and read the details of previous breeding records. A few records have photos associated with them and those may be helpful. You could also do the same motions in Map mode. Click on the red dots for the details.


Submitting records at the Audubon Website: For several days we’ve had a problem with the SB Audubon web site where you usually can submit your observations.  We expect to solve the problem soon.  You can always submit using either of these forms, then emailing your data to Mark.

This link will download the Excel Data Entry file

This link will download the fillable PDF Data Entry file

Thanks for your patience with the website and please report breeding Red-winged Blackbirds.

Mark Holmgren

Santa Barbara

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