Monday, April 6

Red-winged and Rusty Blackbird flight call comparison

Rusty Blackbirds can be difficult to identify by sight in flight. They look similar to Red-winged Blackbirds unless a good side-on or view beneath is obtained, where the slightly longer, slimmer body and longer club-shaped tail can be appreciated. It is usually difficult to see the thin bill and yellow eye. The flight calls, while similar, often afford a better way to locate and identify possible Rusties.

Rusty Blackbirds have two flight calls, a short, hard chack and a low soft gup. Red-winged Blackbirds have more varied calls but there are three main calls given in flight, a dry check, a hard tup (pek), and a soft rising pwik (by females). These calls are also made regularly by perched birds.

These are recordings made at the same location in early April, PA.
Red-winged Blackbird birds in flight:
Check, a drier, slightly higher and longer sounding call than the shorter, lower, harder Rusty chack.


Tup, a harder sounding call than the liquidy Rusty gup.


Pwik is distinctive.

Rusty Blackbirds (taking flight at 34s, April, PA). The chack call is harder and shorter than the red-winged check call, the gup call is softer than the red-winged tup.

Simple inverted chevrons are the gup calls. The chack call has rising inverted chevrons with several partials. Compare with the red-wing's longer check whose partials are more symmetric.

A second example of these calls, by perched birds at a nearby location (mid-April, PA),
Red-winged Blackbird check and tup

check, horizontal and symmetric partials


Rusty Blackbird chack

chack, rising asymmetric partials


the liquidy gup

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