For the Birds: Red-winged Blackbirds Love Cromwell Park

Thursday, April 16, 2015

1% Public Art at Cromwell Park
Photo by Christine Southwick

By Christine Southwick

Have you been to Cromwell Park lately? Since its redesign in 2010 to include public art, improved play areas, and a storm water detention area for Thornton Creek, cattails have grown thick in the wetland areas. Native plants surround these wet areas, and create secure spaces for birds and other wildlife to raise their young. There are walking paths around the detention area for our viewing pleasure while still keeping a safe space wild enough for birds.

Male Red-winged Blackbird in cattails
with red/yellow patches showing
Photo by Christine Southwick

This weekend I saw at least four male and six female Red-winged Blackbirds who have come back and claimed this area for breeding and raising their young. The males singing their loud “Konkoree” from an exposed branch or top of a cattail in order to show off their red and yellow shoulder epaulettes (which they fluff dramatically) are so flashy that the females almost go unnoticed.

Males usually win at least two females, with the overly impressive male having up to 15 females. The females look like large dark, thin-ish striped sparrows — all the better to hide in amongst the light and dark stems of cattails where they expertly lash together their nests for three to four eggs.

Female Red-winged Blackbird feeding a newly fledged offspring
Photo by Doug Parrott

Stand still and watch the cattails and you may be able to see these females flitting around, flying up and then quickly down while making loud notes. I saw one of the females collecting nesting material and flying repeatedly to the same spot, undoubtedly the site for her soon-to-be nest.

Native plants and water create good habitat for all, and are a restful way to control flooding from heavy rains. Go visit Cromwell Park (18030 Meridian Ave N), stay out of the waters, and listen to the Red-winged Blackbirds singing, and even some frogs croaking. You will probably see some Mallards in the open water. Anna’s Hummingbirds and other birds, such as chickadees, use this park at times.

Male Red-winged Blackbird high in the cattails
Photo by Christine Southwick

Personally, I'm looking forward to the time when I hear Marsh Wrens or Common Yellowthroats. Then I will know that this storm water detention area has become a true wetland.

Note:  Echo Lake here in Shoreline, and Greenlake in Seattle are also good places to find Red-winged Blackbirds.


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