The birds in the backyard bring today’s photograph series to you.  Particularly a male red-winged blackbird and a finch that photo-bombed the series of pictures.

Red-winged blackbird sitting on the grape arbor.

Male red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) are very easy to spot—they are a glossy black, with red and yellow patches on their shoulders. The male red-winged blackbirds are the ones that people usually spot, as they’re constantly singing and flashing their shoulders. The females are a little harder to spot (as they’re more brown with streaks, and they stay hidden more often than not), though they may be mistaken for being a sparrow.

Female red-winged blackbird feeding at the suet feeder

These birds (red-winged blackbirds) are abundant across basically all of the lower forty-eight states (though they may only be spotted in some of the northern states during breeding season). Their habitat is marshy areas (where the females will weave nests close to the water). They forge on insects and seeds, and can have a travel radius of fifty miles for feeding—but always coming back to the nest at night.

Red-winged blackbird and probable goldfinch

So the photo bomber is a finch—and I’m pretty sure it was a goldfinch. Though it’s hard to tell color wise whether or not it was in its mating colors (the brighter yellow, and therefore male) or a slightly more drab color (which would mean it was a female or an juvenile).

They are the only finch species that molts its body feathers twice a year. They also breed later in the year (towards mid summer)—when all the different plants (such as milkweed and thistle) have produced fibrous seeds.

Molting goldfinch

They are “strictly” vegetarians—if they eat an insect it is solely by accident.

They inadvertently starve cowbird chicks—as brown-headed cowbirds aren’t strictly vegetarians and the young can’t survive on an all seed diet like goldfinch chicks can.

Another unique fact about the goldfinch—it is the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa & Washington.