Frequently Asked Questions
Students' Questions and Experts' Answers
Contributed by Ornithology Expert Laura Erickson

Life Cycle

Q. How long do Red-winged Blackbirds live?

A. Through February, 2001, the longest-living banded wild redwing ever recorded by the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center had survived 15 years and 9 months.

Q. Do redwings mate for life?

A. No, redwings do not mate for life. They don't even form genuine pair bonds, since males who control a territory may have several mates. Males usually return to the same territory for several years, but females often go to entirely different places from one spring to the next.

Q. What is a redwing nest like?

A. A redwing nest is constructed mostly from dead cattail leaves, sedges, other plant fibers, and is usually constructed in cattails, rushes, shrubs, or weeds, but sometimes in a tree.

Q. How many eggs do redwings normally lay?

A. Most redwing clutches have 3 or 4 eggs.

Q. What color are redwing eggs?

A. Pale blue-green, spotted or with zigzag lines of black, brown and/or purple.

Q. How long does it take for redwing eggs to hatch?

A. 11 - 12 days from the time the last egg is laid.

Q. How much do newly-hatched redwings weigh?

A. 2.75 grams--a little more than a penny.

Q. How do baby redwings keep their nest clean?

A. Baby redwings produce their poop in fecal sacs, encased in strong membranes so they don't leak. To learn more, see our Fecal Sac Lesson.

Q. When do young redwings learn to fly?

A. Baby redwings jump from their nest when they are about 10 days old. It takes them another several days to become strong fliers and independent birds, but in the meantime they are very good at climbing on cattails and other plants.