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Red-winged Blackbird Dictionary
For 6 Redwing Vocalizations

Red-winged Blackbirds produce a wide variety of sounds. They are most famous for their "Okalee" call, but scientists have discovered more! This English/Redwing Dictionary contains 6 entries. Click on links for definitions.
All Recordings Courtesy of Lang Elliott Nature Sound Studios except where noted. (.wav files)

Okalee Song
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"Chip" Call
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"Chap" Call
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Sputter Call
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Twitter Call
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Whistle
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Okalee Song (o-ka-lee') 1. Given by males in spring. The song is given on territory. Its purpose is to warn other males off the territory ("This is MY piece of this marsh") and to attract mates ("Check out THESE cattails!").


Chip Call (chip) 1. Given by males and females in many situations as a general contact call ("Hey, look! Food!") 2. Alerts group members to danger ("Heads up!")


Chap call (chap) Very similar to Chip call. 1. Given by males and females in many situations as a general contact call ("Hey, look! Food!") 2. Alerts group members to danger ("Heads up!")

Sputter Call [also called the "Teer" or Female Song] (chatter or sputter) Given by females when defending nest area or chasing off other females. ("Go build your nest somewhere else!")

Twitter Call (long drawn out twitterings) 1. Given by both males and females during courtship ("Hey, sweetie!") 2. Given by females after a Sputter Call, perhaps to show nearby females which one is most dominant ("I'm queen of the marsh!")

Whistle (downward slurred "Jeer") Given by males in alarm situations ("Look out! Here comes a human!")

Try This! Vocabulary Quiz
Photo Courtesy of Ann Cook

Photo by Ann Cook

After studying the Redwing Dictionary, check your understanding with our Redwing Vocabulary Quiz!


Try This! Journaling Questions

  • Sit near a marsh for 20 minutes listening to Redwings. In your journal or field notebook, record as many of their vocalizations as you can. Put a check by each vocalization that you record if you actually watch the bird making it. Write M if the bird is a male, and F if it's a female making the call. Also add a note if a male exposes his red epaulets while making the sound, or if he hides them.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds use both their sounds AND their appearance to communicate. Think of some reasons why redwing communication is so complicated. See how your thoughts compare with Journey North's ornithologist here.
  • Researchers have discovered a lot about Red-winged Blackbirds. Why do you suppose there is more research about redwings than many other equally common species? See how your thoughts compare with Journey North's science writer here.

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