We’re talking a lot about Tricolored Blackbirds lately. And because of that we’re getting a lot of calls and emails from people claiming to have seen Tricolored Blackbirds in all kinds of places around the country. In most cases, we’re pretty sure these folks are looking at the more common — but also entirely great — Red-winged Blackbird. It’s incredibly easy to mistake the two. Not only do they look a lot alike, but they often hang out together. Here are a few quick tips: Male Tricolored Blackbirds have distinct bright red shoulder coloring, and the white is quite pronounced. The colors on the shoulder of a Male Red-wing Blackbird are a little less intense. It’s a lighter red, maybe more of an orange, and the white is more like yellow. The big giveaway is the white — if you see bright white, you’re probably looking at a Tricolored Blackbird. Compare the two USFWS photos above. At the top is a Tricolored Blackbird, while the one beneath is a Red-Winged Blackbird. Females are way trickier, because they don’t have the shoulder colors (many folks won’t even try to distinguish the two). But by and large, the female Tricoloreds are darker gray, and lack the streaking and rufous colors that you’ll find in a female Red-winged Blackbird.
Below, female Tricolored Blackbird by Glen Tepke:
Below, female Red-wing Blackbird, by Mdf