Red-winged Blackbirds are Courting and Nesting at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Male Red-winged Blackbird on a CattailMale Red-winged Blackbird on a Cattail – Nikon D300, f6.3,  1/500,  ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

The Red-winged Blackbirds at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge have courting and nest building on their minds now that spring is upon us. The flashy males can be found singing and displaying on top of cattails and rushes in an attempt to find a mate.

Yesterday Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge looked marvelous with plenty of water in the impoundments, a clear sky, and signs of vegetation greening up and in the background the snow covered Wasatch Mountain Range.

Female Red-winged Blackbird with nesting materialFemale Red-winged Blackbird with nesting material – Nikon D300, f6.3,  1/500,  ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

Female Red-winged Blackbirds aren’t as flashy as the males and can be easily overlooked but that doesn’t stop me from finding and photographing them. I photographed this female as she searched for suitable nesting material right at the edge of the auto tour route. She eventually dropped the material in her bill and moved on to locate more.

A spring morning spent at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is always a gift.


Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a jewel of a wetland not too far from Brigham City with easy access from I-15. The views are spectacular and the birds are terrific.

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Superb detail in the black feathers of the male, with a classic pose as well.

  2. And a gift from you to us. Thank you. Love the red epaulettes in the first image – a badge of honour?

  3. Loekie van der Wal

    Mia, as always I totally enjoy your gorgeous pictures of the birds and other wild life. They are amazing. I really hope that one day I can travel from Canada to your area to visit Antelope Island State Park and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to see and photograph all kinds of birds and mammals out there. Thanks again for sharing all your super shots.

  4. I think my favorite thing to watch is when the red-winged blackbird males spar in the air over the nesting area. I don’t know if it’s to show off their prowess, to impress the females. Or if they are vying for the female they have already claimed. They do battle but they don’t harm one another. They’ll even collide midair, then return to a perch – and then begin the dramatic airborne maneuvers all over again.
    I love these birds. And the female is as delicate as a fine china teacup! That’s what she looks like to me! She’s unassuming, but nobody’s fool!

  5. Beautiful and sharp images, nice to see both sexes. Reminds me of this 2007 post of the male protecting the nest by riding on the back of a hawk:

  6. I love the almost military flashiness of the male, with his red and gold epaulets, but find the subtle mimicry of the female’s “vegetation brown” , and the overall composition, of the second image equally pleasing….

  7. The reds are so vivid on the males, but as your photo illustrates, the texture and patterning of the plumage of females are quite striking too. Love the perch and rejected nesting material in the second image.

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