"The red-winged blackbird is the true harbinger of spring." This is a sentence I repeat at least two or three times a year. I first hear it at the Connecticut Audobon's Eagle Festival. My children and I went to the festival hoping to learn more about eagles and meet the bird experts. The festival is held in February, when everyone is looking toward spring and the return of migrating birds. One bird expert explained that many robins now winter over in our area, so "the red-winged blackbird is the true harbinger of spring."

Deep River is home to two freshwater tidal marshes, Pratt Cove and Post Cove. Wild rice grows in these coves, and at this time of year it is ready to eat. Lucky for the red-winged blackbirds, who are starting to think of their autumn journey south. In preparation for migration, many birds, including the red-winged blackbird, enter a stage of hyperphagia, which means their appetite increases and eating is nearly continual. It makes sense: they are bulking up for a long flight to their winter home. This crop of wild rice provides them with lots and lots of food. In September and October the reeds in Pratt Cove are filled with flocks of noisy, hungry, red-winged blackbirds, eating, calling to each other, and flying from reed to reed. I marvel and delight in this predictable happening.

Many birds are now preparing to make a migratory trip south. Watch, listen, tune into the behavior of the birds. Their journey is not easy, many will travel thousands of miles and will meet many challenges: bad weather, electrical wires, air and road traffic, food and water shortages, and more. Bid them farewell and safe journey.

More information:

Winged Migration, a film released in 2001, is a documentary about the migratory patterns of birds. It is filled with beautiful images of birds in flight and in natural setting across the globe. The film also includes some footage of birds encountering obstacles and perilous circumstances along their migrational paths.
Common Sense Media Review

Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Migration

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Zoological Society of Milwaukee

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