Red-breasted blackbird

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Red-breasted blackbird
Red-breasted blackbird.jpg
A male red-breasted blackbird in Los Llanos, Venezuela
Sturnella militaris - Red-breasted Blackbird (female).jpg
A female red-breasted blackbird in Apiacás, Mato Grosso state, Brazil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Sturnella
Species: S. militaris
Binomial name
Sturnella militaris
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The red-breasted blackbird (Sturnella militaris) is a passerine bird in the New World family Icteridae. Despite its name and colouration, it is in the same genus as the meadowlarks, and is less closely related to the red-winged blackbird group. It is unrelated to the European blackbird, which is a thrush.

The red-breasted blackbird is resident from south-western Costa Rica, which it has recently colonised, and Trinidad, south to north-eastern Peru and central Brazil. In 2008, it was sighted for the first time in Nicaragua.[2]

Like other meadowlarks, it is a bird associated with open country, including moist grasslands, pasture and cultivation, preferably with the odd bush or fence post for males to use as a songpost. In display the male flies up to 10 m (33 ft) in the air, then parachutes down on folded wings whilst singing a wheezing song, ti-ti-pee-pee-KWAAAAAA. The call is a short tsip.

The red-breasted blackbird builds a deep grass-lined open cup nest on the ground amongst tall grasses, with several nests often close together. The normal clutch is two to four reddish brown-blotched cream eggs.

The red-breasted blackbird is a small icterid, 19 cm (7.5 in) long and weighing 40–48 g (1.4–1.7 oz). Males are larger than females. The male has mainly black plumage, apart from a bright red throat, belly and wing epaulets. This striking "redcoat" plumage gives rise to the specific name militaris and the Trinidadian name "soldier bird".

The female has buff edged dark brown upperpart feathers, buff underparts with a reddish tinge, and pale streaks through the crown and eye. Juveniles resemble the female, but are paler and lack the reddish tint to the underparts.

This species is very closely related to the white-browed blackbird, S. superciliaris which breeds further south, and was formerly considered to be subspecies of red-breasted blackbird. The male white-browed is easily distinguished by his bright white supercilium, but females of the two species are almost identical. Female red-breasted blackbirds are longer billed, smaller, and shorter winged than their relative, with more red and less streaking on the underparts.

This gregarious bird feeds mainly on insects and some seeds, including rice, and forages on the ground like a bobolink.

The red-breasted blackbird has benefited from the more open habitat created by forest clearance and ranching, and is extending its range. It is uncertain whether sightings on Tobago represent a small breeding population or wanderers from Trinidad or South America.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Sturnella militaris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Arendt, Wayne J.; Tórrez, Marvin A (Autumn 2009). "First documented record of Red-breasted Blackbird Sturnella militaris in Nicaragua". Cotinga 31: 119–120. 
  • New World Blackbirds by Jaramillo and Burke, ISBN 0-7136-4333-1
  • ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2. 
  • Hilty, Steven L (2003). Birds of Venezuela. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5. 

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