Just before the new year, drivers on Route 22 were disturbed to see dozens of blackbirds that seemed to fall from the sky and onto the highway. Helpless and hobbled, the birds that didn't die immediately were unable to get out of the way of oncoming traffic and dozens were killed, according to witnesses. Roughly 200 red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) tumbled out of the sky in Stow Creek Township, N.J., a few days before Thanksgiving. And on New Year's Eve 2010, about 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky over Beebe, Ark., hitting some people.
The red-winged blackbird is omnivorous. It feeds primarily on plant materials, including seeds from weeds and waste grain such as corn and rice, but about a quarter of its diet consists of insects and other small animals, and considerably more so during breeding season. It prefers insects, such as dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, and flies, but also consumes snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders, mollusks. The red-winged blackbird forages for insects by picking them from plants, or by catching them in flight. In season, it eats blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit. These birds can be lured to backyard bird feeders by bread and seed mixtures and suet. In late summer and in autumn, the red-winged blackbird will feed in open fields, mixed with grackles, cowbirds, and starlings in flocks which can number in the thousands.
Sources: The Morning Call, January 13, 2017
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