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Agelaius Phoeniceus - Two Red-Winged Blackbirds On A Sand Fence | Hampton Bays, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Agelaius
Species: A. phoeniceus
Binomial name
Agelaius phoeniceus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

In winter, this species will forage away from marshes, taking seeds and grain from open fields and agricultural areas. It is sometimes considered an agricultural pest. Farmers have been known to use pesticides such as parathion in illegal attempts to control their populations. In the United States, such efforts are illegal because no pesticide can be used on non-target organisms, or for any use not explicitly listed on the pesticide’s label. However, the USDA has deliberately poisoned this species: in 2009, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported poisoning over 950,000 red-winged blackbirds in Texas and Louisiana. This poisoning has been implicated as a potential cause of the decline of the rusty blackbird, a once abundant species that has declined 99% since the 1960s and has been recently listed as Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Like English, the indigenous languages of the bird’s range describe it by its physical characteristics. In the Anishinaabe languages, an indigenous language group spoken throughout much of the bird’s northeastern range, this bird’s names are diverse. In the Oji-Cree language, the northernmost of the Anishinaabe languages, it is called jachakanoob, while the Ojibwa language spoken in Northwestern Ontario and into Manitoba ranging immediately south of the Oji-Cree’s range, the bird is called jachakanoo (with the cognates cahcahkaniw (Swampy Cree), cahcahkaluw (coastal Southern East Cree), cahcahkayuw (inland Southern East Cree), cahcahkayow (Plains Cree)); the northern Algonquian languages classify the red-winged blackbird as a type of a junco or grackle, deriving the bird’s name from their word for “spotted” or “marked”. In the vast majority of the other Ojibwa language dialects, the bird is called memiskondinimaanganeshiinh, literally meaning “a bird with a very red damn-little shoulder-blade”. However, in the Odawa language, an Anishinaabe language in southwestern Ontario and in Michigan, the bird is instead called either memeskoniinisi (“bird with a red [patch on its wing]”) or memiskonigwiigaans (“[bird with a] wing of small and very red [patch]”). In N’syilxcn (Colville-Okanagan, Interior Salish language) the bird is known as ƛ̓kƛ̓aʕkək.

In the Great Plains, the Lakota language, another indigenous language spoken throughout much of the bird’s range, the bird is called wabloša (“wings of red”). Its songs are described in Lakota as tōke, mat’ā nī (“oh! that I might die”), as nakun miyē (“…and me”), as miš eyā (“me too!”), and as cap’cehlī (“a beaver’s running sore”).And its name in nahuatl the Aztec idiom is “acolchichilli” that literally means “red shoulder”. Read more

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