Today is Groundhog Day, and though Punxsutawney Phil had good news early this morning, he’s usually wrong. It’s time to switch to a better predictor — and it turns out there’s one waiting in the wings: The Red-winged Blackbird.
The blackbird, one of the first birds to return on its spring migration, will start showing up in just a few weeks. That’s a signal of spring you can trust — and spot in almost every state of the union with its brilliant red patches atop jet-black feathers.
The Red-winged Blackbird can be found hanging out in marshes, waterways, ditches and even city parks. This bird isn’t shy or quiet: The blackbird’s got a striking, stuttering song — and can often be seen gripping the tallest stalks, sometimes swinging in the wind, as if on stage.
Most wonderful of all, while its red patches may be hidden when stationary, they stand out like colorful shoulder pads when the birds take flight.
Although most Red-winged Blackbirds migrate, they don’t travel as far as many birds do. So as they begin to move north in mid February (with males ahead of females), you’ll see them in higher latitudes before spring even thinks about arriving.