In the midst of a recent snowstorm, Leonard and I saw and heard our first harbingers of spring. Normally red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) begin to appear in the cottonwoods beside our house in February or early March. They flock in our trees for several weeks before dispersing into the nearby cattail marshes to breed and spend the summer. In fall the red-winged blackbirds again congregate around the house for several weeks before migrating south. There is no way I can keep the windows clean with a hundred birds perched above.
Throughout the United States red-winged blackbirds are short-distance migrators or resident. They travel to lower elevations or lower latitudes in the winter.
Migration is initiated by the overall amount of daily light or the angle of the sun in the sky. The abundance and availability of food, air temperature, wind patterns, storms and barometric pressure also have an effect on migration timing, although these factors are of lesser importance. I have no idea why the red-winged black birds returned to Big Valley CA (Modoc County) so early this year. But their red epaulets and distinctive, almost continuous calls are welcome in this white and grey landscape.
The two pictures were taken last April at Ash Creek Wildlife Area near Lookout CA.