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Crimson-winged Troopial, or Red-and-black-shouldered Marsh Blackbird

Crimson-winged Troopial, or Red-and-black-shouldered Marsh Blackbird

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Red-winged Blackbird (see also Red-winged Starling).]

[Agelaius phoeniceus.]


Of this species, which appears to be abundant about the Columbia river, I have received two specimens from Mr. TOWNSEND, who procured them there. Having seen individuals from Mexico, I think it probable that it returns to that country to spend the winter. Of its habits however I regret that I am entirely ignorant.


CRIMSON-WINGED TROOPIAL, Icterus gubernator, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v.p. 211.

Male, 9; wing, 5 7/12.


Adult Male.

Bill shorter than the head, conical, straight, stout, compressed toward the end, tapering to a fine point; upper mandible with the dorsal line nearly straight, being a little convex at the base, the ridge a little flattened toward the base, where it runs into a short tapering process, the sides rounded, the edges inflected, the tip slightly depressed; lower mandible higher at the base than the upper, with the angle rather short and wide, the sides rather flat and inclined inwards at the base, convex toward the end, the edges inflected, the tip acute; the gap-line straight, but at the base deflected. Nostrils oval, in the fore part of the short nasal depression.

Head of moderate size, ovate, with the forehead flattened; neck short; body moderately stout. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus rather stout, compressed, with seven large anterior scutella, of which the upper are blended, the two lateral plates meeting at an acute angle behind; toes rather large, compressed; the first much stronger, the outer a little shorter than the inner; claws large, arched, compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.

Plumage soft, blended, glossy, the feathers ovate and rounded; those on the fore and upper parts of the head standing erect, so as to present a velvety surface. Wings rather long, the second quill longest, but exceeding the third only by half a twelfth, the first shorter than the fourth; the secondaries broadly rounded; the second, third, fourth, and fifth primaries cut out on the outer web toward the end. Tail of twelve broadly rounded feathers, rather long, slightly rounded, the lateral feathers being two-twelfths shorter than the middle.

Bill and feet black. The general colour of the plumage is glossy bluish-black, on the head velvet-black; the smaller wing-coverts scarlet, at the base white.

Length to end of tail 9 inches, bill along the ridge (10 1/12)/12; wing from flexure 5 7/12; tail 4 1/12; tarsus 1 3/12; hind toe (6 3/4)/12, its claw 7/12; second toe 8/12, its claw (4 1/4)/12; third toe 11/12, its claw 5/12; fourth toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw 4/12.


The female, which is much smaller, has the bill and feet greyish-black; the upper parts are dark brown, the feathers edged with light brown; the smaller wing-coverts edged with dull scarlet, the first row with whitish; the larger coverts, the quills and tail-feathers blackish-brown, edged with yellowish-brown; the lower parts are dull brown, but the throat, and a broad streak over the eye are dull orange.

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