Red-breasted blackbird (Sturnella militaris)

Red-breasted blackbird vocalising
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Red-breasted blackbird fact file

Red-breasted blackbird description

GenusSturnella (1)

The red-breasted blackbird is so-named for the spectacular pinkish-red patch found on the breast and throat of the adult male (3). With the exception of two pinkish patches at the bend of the wing, the rest of the male’s feathers are black, with lighter brown edges that are progressively worn away as the bird ages, eventually resulting in a uniform black appearance. The female has less striking plumage, with mostly brown feathers on the body and head, and a hint of reddish colouration on the breast. Immature red-breasted blackbirds resemble the female, but lack the reddish breast colouration altogether, and have black streaked underparts (2).

Length: 17 – 19 cm (2)

Red-breasted blackbird biology

The red-breasted blackbird is most commonly encountered foraging for insects and seeds in bushes, low trees and sometimes on the ground (3) (4). Occupying an open environment means that this species is vulnerable to aerial predators such as hawks, hence when alarmed, the red-breasted blackbird will produce a pist call to alert other conspecifics of danger (2).

During the breeding season (March to mid-November in Trinidad), other vocalisations are produced, such as a tsi-li-li-EE song made by the male during display flights (4) (5). After mating a deep, cup-shaped nest is constructed from grass stems lined with finer grass, which is placed on the ground and hidden amongst vegetation (2) (3). A clutch of two to four eggs is normally laid, but frequently additional eggs are deposited by the glossy cowbird, a brood parasite (5). These eggs are then unwittingly incubated and brooded by the red-breasted blackbird, often to the detriment of its own offspring (5) (6).


Red-breasted blackbird range

The red-breasted blackbird is found throughout almost all of central and northern South America, from Argentina, northwards through Brazil and neighbouring countries, to Panama and Costa Rica. It is also found on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago (1) (2).


Red-breasted blackbird habitat

Mainly occupying open country, the red-breasted blackbird can be found in humid fields with low vegetation, wet savanna, marshy areas and the edges of forests (1) (2).


Red-breasted blackbird status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Red-breasted blackbird threats

There are currently no major threats to this species’ survival (1). Indeed, unlike most species, the red-breasted blackbird is actually benefitting from the catastrophic levels of deforestation occurring in South America. It readily colonises the increasingly widespread areas of open habitat, cultivated fields and airports, and its range is appears to be expanding (2).


Red-breasted blackbird conservation

While there are currently no specific conservation measures in place for the red-breasted blackbird (1), it is likely to be present in several protected areas throughout its range (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn more about conservation initiatives in the red-breasted blackbird’s range visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Individuals belonging to the same species.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
  2. Sick, H. (1993) Birds in Brazil: A Natural History. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  3. de Schauensee, R. and Phelps, W.H. (1978) A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  4. Jaramillo, A. (1999) New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. A and C Black, London.
  5. Herklots, G.A.C. (1961) The Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Collins, London.
  6. Payne, R.B. (1977) Ecology of brood parasitism in birds. Annual Reviews in Ecology and Systematics, 8: 1 - 28.
  7. World Database on Protected Areas (May, 2009)

Image credit

Red-breasted blackbird vocalising  
Red-breasted blackbird vocalising

© Robin Monchâtre / Biosphoto

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