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

Conservation

Q. What is the Red-winged Blackbird's population status?

A. The redwing is recorded in every state of the continental U.S. and all but extreme northern Canada on Breeding Bird Surveys. The total population is stable or increasing in most places--one study indictated that they increased 33% between 1996 and 1999.

Q. Why do some people consider redwings to be pests?

For most of the year, redwings eat mostly plant material, and can destroy crops.

Q. How can there be more redwings today than there were when the colonists first came to America?

Redwings used to die throughout much of their range in the winter. Recent winters have been milder, and for many decades farmers have been planting winter wheat and other crops that can keep more blackbirds alive during the harshest season.

Q. What are the biggest dangers facing redwings?

A. Dangers facing redwings include (from most dangerous to least):

  • Pesticides, especially avicides (pesticides made especially to kill birds).
  • Crows and hawks, which eat redwing babies.
  • Hawks, shrikes, and owls, which kill and eat redwings. These natural predators' numbers drop as their food supply dwindles, so they are far less common than redwings, and except in rare local situations simply don't affect redwing numbers.
  • Snakes, fish, frogs, and other aquatic predators which eat redwing eggs and fledglings climbing about before they can fly. These natural predators don't hurt redwing populations.

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