A Sandhill Crane and A Pair of Red-winged Blackbirds


Red-winged Blackbirds are fierce protectors of their territories.  They will attack and chase all intruders, no matter their size.  Here’s a post I’ve shared back in 2018 of a Red-winged Blackbird chasing an Eagle who perched too close to his area!

So now enters the Sandhill Crane that I shared at the end of my last post.  It continued to walk around and feed, minding its own business.  Too many steps in one direction and suddenly the Sandhill Crane was under attack by a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds.


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Red-winged Blackbird (male) swooping the Sandhill Crane


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Red-winged Blackbird (female) sneaks up from behind for a hit


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Red-winged Blackbird (male) getting ready to dive down again on the Sandhill Crane


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Whoa, double attack!!


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Sandhill Crane trying to keep its eye on the Red-winged Blackbird as he circles back


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Sandhill Crane now aggravated and showing who is the biggest here


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“I want no trouble.  And, you know, I am bigger than you…”


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Eye to eye contact between the female Red-winged Blackbird and Sandhill Crane


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Everyone beginning to relax, there’s no reason for all this commotion


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One last menacing stance, doing it’s best Clint Eastwood – “Go ahead, make my day.”


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The commotion ends and all is quiet again


I heard, turned, and redirected my focus on the Mute Swans to my left when out of the corner of my eye I saw the Sandhill Crane take flight.  I guess it was taking the cue to leave.  S/he flew right past me.


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Sandhill Crane in flight


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Sandhill Crane in flight


If you know the Sandhill Crane, you may have noticed this one had heavy rusty coloring.  Normally more gray, some with a bit of tan, I looked into what might be up with this one.

And……During breeding season, Sandhill Cranes preen their feathers with iron-rich mud, dyeing them to a rusty coloring.  Whether its to add color to their mating displays, or to help them camoflauge better in tall marsh reeds, the dyed feathers eventually molt after breeding season ends and grow back to their grayish color in time for migration.

Looks like this one loved the mud baths!


48 thoughts on “A Sandhill Crane and A Pair of Red-winged Blackbirds

  1. Fascinating sequence, Donna. Those are feisty RWBs!
    Interesting about the crane’s rusty mud baths, I noticed it was missing some pinions… maybe molting early?

  2. What an amazing series and story! I’ll be you were in seventh heaven as you witnessed and captured this. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Excellent captures of the event, Donna. I love the location, great backgrounds for bird photos! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Interesting post Donna, it is a very similar drama to what we experience here in spring when breeding season is on, as you would have seen in my spring posts. Interesting about the iron in the preening mud, a clever initiative. Who said birds are stupid? they are very inventive also. Have a great weekend my friend ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I have great respect for the Red-winged black birds. I have been attacked myself when I unwittingly got too close to the nest. Thanks for explaining the reason behind the colouring of the Sandhill Crane. Enjoyed all the photos.

  6. Interesting how the Sandhill Crane got his rusty coloring. What a commotion the Red-winged Blackbirds created, but the crane stood its ground and left on its own terms. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love the story your pictures tell.

  7. What a fantastic action series, Donna. I never tire of seeing sandhill cranes, they’re such elegant birds. They are normally quiet and self-contained, it must’ve been very exciting to see this red-winged blackbird drama unfold. Wonderful!

    • Thank you, Jet! I’ve noticed female RWBs don’t always get involved with territorial disputes but this gal was fiesty! Poor crane, just wanted to be alone and feed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Excellent images of the action and commentary, Donna! The Red-Wing Blackbirds are brave. I recently had a front-row seat to a pair harassing a Red-tailed Hawk who was just cruising around the tree stretching its wings where it has its nest with two chicks in it.

    The Hawk wasn’t happy either. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thank you, Martha, I love the RWBs fierceness! I’m super-thrilled with the flight shots of the crane too, so glad I hung around that last few minutes before leaving. ๐Ÿ™‚

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