During vacation last week, I took the time to visit Essex Woods in Bangor to see if any bird were returning to the property’s wetlands. I didn’t spot any wading birds (green herons, great blue herons, great egrets and sandpipers) that are often seen there during the summer. But right away, I spotted a downy woodpecker, which remains in Maine year round, and some red-winged blackbirds, which come to Maine in the spring to breed.
If you’ve never seen a red-winged blackbird, its name is descriptive of what the male looks like. It’s a black bird, a bit smaller than a crow, and it has a red band (and a yellow band) on each wing. The female, on the other hand, is “brown and streaky,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and has a dull orange throat. Aside from their general shape, the male and female look quite different.
I’ve only ever seen red-winged blackbirds around freshwater wetlands. However, I’m new at birding. These birds can also be found around saltwater marshes, waterways, drier meadows and old fields, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
During breeding season, you’ll usually notice males because they are often working hard to get noticed by females, perching atop cattails and high in trees. Females, on the other hand, are usually found lower to the ground, searching for food and building nests.
While walking on the path around the Essex Woods wetlands, I also spotted a yellow-rumped warbler, which travels up to Maine to breed in the spring (but doesn’t stay for our harsh winters). And from afar, I spotted what I think was an eastern phoebe, another summer Maine resident.