lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

T is for Tricoloured Blackbird

This is rather a gorgeous-looking bird from North America – here is a male in a photo by Alan Vernon:

Alan vernon male tricoloured blackbird

The tricoloured blackbird is not related in any way to the Old World blackbirds found in the British Isles, which are a type of thrush. This bird is a little smaller, and its feathers glossier.

It forms the largest breeding colonies of any bird in North America – but this unfortunately is the species’ achilles heel. They feed predominately on grains, and nest in silage fields – they are being decimated by herbicides and the silage harvesting that takes place while they are nesting. If they didn’t nest all in one area they would be safer – in almost literal fact they have their eggs all in one basket.

The female constructs her nest by dipping leaves in water and weaving them around upright plant stems – then she sticks it all together with wet mud in layers to hold her eggs and chicks safely.

The nestlings are fed by both parents for about 14 days, and they have a unique way of encouraging their chicks to leave the nest when they are ready – they coax them by flying temptingly away from the nest with a delicious morsel in their beaks, with the babies flying in pursuit.

These birds have suffered a huge decline and are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.

Here is my poem for them:


Tricoloured Blackbirds


Tricoloured blackbirds

are oxymoronic,

and also ironically

not blackbirds at all,

nesting in colonies

of thousands in flocks

could paradoxically

be their downfall,

for what happens to one bird

happens to all.


© Liz Brownlee


Information from:



Top image by Alan Vernon, shown by Creative Commons License.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.




  1. We just call them redwing blackbirds here in Missouri 🙂 I wasn’t aware their numbers are falling.
    Stephanie Finnell
    @randallbychance from
    Katy Trail Creations
    Stephanies Stuff


  2. A very pretty bird.


  3. Gorgeous birds with those glossy feathers and flashes of colour. How sad that they’re in decline.

    Susan A Eames from
    Travel, Fiction and Photos


    • Hi, Susan. Modern farming methods have a lot to answer for – the loss of a vast array of wildlife from butterflies to hares to owls.


  4. Thea O'Brian

    Gosh and here I thought there was only one species of a black bird! You sure proved me wrong. I know a place close by that has to eliminate the blackbirds because there are so many. They seem to migrate to this one spot every year.


  5. I saw a pair of these birds by the Charles River in Boston the other day.


  6. I have finally gotten to your site. Thank you for visiting mine.
    Your information about the Tri-Color Black Bird made me aware of the danger they are in. Thank you and I’m glad they are now an endangered species.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange


  7. Gorgeous little bird! I wonder what else those pesticides are killing off. I love the way you describe how they entice their young to leave the nest. Parents of teenagers should take note. I just subscribed to your blog, Liz. I’m happy to have discovered such a lovely site 🙂


    • Hello, Michelle, welcome! Thank you. The pesticides are killing off butterflies that fertilise flowers and crops, and, more importantly, bees – a worldwide devastating loss of bees actually does threaten us!


  8. I know these from visiting my daughter in Michigan, but have never succeeded in obtaining a photo as good as this.


  9. It is strange to see a familiar vird wearing unfamiliar colours. We had a blackbird in our garden once that had one white feather in its wing – it came back several years running.


  10. Sweet and informative post. (Did not know those were not actually blackbirds.)
    By the way, I liked the dragonfly on your other site.

    Thanks for stopping by at Fad to the Bone – Dog Products Revue — and happy A-Z.


    • Old world blackbirds… ie those in the old world, Uk is in the old world, you are in the new world – so to you, they are blackbirds.


  11. Back again. Thanks for visiting Working in Words too! And happy A to Z! Here comes the final week.


  12. Loved the poem and I love those birds, they have a great song . Thanks for your visit to


    • Hello, Maria, thank you! Do you live in the Pacific states? If so, hooray! If not, it’s more likely you have seen a red-winged blackbird. Which are common all over the US. Here is a link to distinguish between the two – please note the first picture seems to have disappeared from the site, it is of the tricoloured blackbird – the picture still there is the redwing. They very similar.


  13. valj2750

    Hi Liz. Returning the visit. Just wanted to let you know I saw an this bird on a bike ride through a nature trail TODAY! My husband called it a red-winged blackbird. Is that the same thing? Keep rocking the challenge.


    • No – they are different birds. The redwing is common all through the states, the tricoloured only lives in small patches in the Pacific States. They are tricky to tell apart, but on the whole, the redwing has less vivid red patches, they are more orangey-red, and the white below is yellower. If the bird you saw had bright red patches and the white was very bright white, and its black was very glossy (the tricolours are glossier than the redwings) then it was likely to be a tricoloured blackbird, but if alone, less likely.


  14. I know these as red-wing black birds and I had no idea they are endangered. I see them around my area all the time. I was once attacked by one of them at Ontario Place. I was walking around a grassy area and it kept swooping. And finally it smack my on my head with its claws. I must have been close to its nest.


    • Hi Birgit, do you live in the Pacific States? If not then it’s likely you’ve seen a redwing blackbird, which is not endangered, and lives all over. They have more orangey-red patches, and the white under is a bit yellowy. The tricoloured ones have very noticeable white, are glossier, and the red is very red. They are hard to tell apart! This link tells you, but the photo of the tricoloured blackbird was missing when I went to have a look – but you can see the redwing and see how close it is to this one on my page!


  15. They are beautiful birds, I think they’re seen mostly on the west coast. I enjoyed your poem about them. The red-winged blackbirds are very common in Evergreen, Colorado and I like them because they’re arrival here is a sure sign spring.


    • Thank you! How lovely the other ones are a herald of spring.


  16. Looks like he’s wearing chevrons or something on his wing. Gorgeous birds.


  17. I was trying to remember what this chap looked like before I got to your page… I thought there might be an Asian Tricoloured blackbird, but I think I was thinking of the Nilgiri one, which gave me a name for one of my characters 😉 It’s getting near the end of the A2Z and I’m rambling… please ignore me, it’s been a long month 🙂
    Jemima Pett


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