Juvenile male Red-winged Blackbird diving towards the ground – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
The plumage of male juvenile Red-winged Blackbirds is highly variable during their first year, some of the young blackbirds can look like females and some can look more like adult males.
Red-winged Blackbirds are sexually dimorphic, adult males are primarily all glossy black with red and yellow epaulets while the females are a streaky dusky to brown with a light “eyebrow” that can be white to buff to salmon colored. Females are often confused with sparrows and other bird species by novice birders and bird photographers.
The juvenile Red-winged Blackbird male in my photo above looks more like an adult male than a female. Instead of being all glossy black though this young male has rusty to buffy edges on the feathers of his head, nape, mantle, coverts, back and tail. His epaulets are orange with black mottling instead of red and yellow.
When I photographed him on Antelope Island State Park two days he and a flock of other Red-winged Blackbirds were feeding on the wild sunflower seeds, he had been perched on a stem next to a seed head and I happened to photograph him as he dove towards the ground after a seed he had dropped.
Normally this photo would have been consigned to my delete bin because of the lack of eye contact but I decided to keep it because I liked the diving pose, the spread wings, the lifted tail, that one foot is still touching the sunflower stem and how well this image shows the plumage phase of this individual juvenile male bird. I do wish I would have had eye contact with him and that the seed head under the bird’s right wing hadn’t been there but this is a bird not a model and they do what they want to when they want to, where they want to and how they want to. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Life is good.
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