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A photo of a Red-breasted Blackbird (Leistes militaris), male
Red-breasted Blackbird, Male

Red-breasted Blackbird

Leistes militaris

The Red-breasted Meadowlark, known scientifically as Leistes militaris, is a small, vibrant bird within the Icteridae family. It is not to be confused with the Red-winged Blackbird, despite its former name, the Red-breasted Blackbird. The male of the species is adorned with a striking black plumage contrasted by a vivid red throat, belly, and wing epaulets, while the female is characterized by buff-edged dark brown upperparts and buff underparts with a reddish tinge.

Identification Tips

Males are distinguishable by their black feathers and red "redcoat" markings, reminiscent of a soldier's uniform, which is reflected in the species' specific name, militaris, and its Trinidadian moniker, "soldier bird". Females and juveniles are more subdued in coloration, with the females sporting a longer bill, smaller size, and shorter wings compared to their relative, the White-browed Meadowlark. They also have more red and less streaking on the underparts.

Habitat

The Red-breasted Meadowlark favors open country habitats. It thrives in moist grasslands, pastures, and cultivated areas, often utilizing bushes or fence posts as perches for males to sing from.

Distribution

This bird is a resident species ranging from southwestern Costa Rica and Trinidad, down to northeastern Peru and central Brazil. It has been expanding its territory, benefiting from deforestation and ranching that create more open habitats.

Behaviour

The Red-breasted Meadowlark is a gregarious creature, often seen feeding in groups. It has a distinctive display during breeding season, where the male ascends to heights of 10 meters before parachuting down with folded wings, all the while singing a wheezing song.

Song & Calls

The male's song is a unique, wheezing tune that ends with a loud "KWAAAAAA", while its call is a short "tsip".

Breeding

Nests are constructed on the ground amidst tall grasses, often in close proximity to one another. The typical clutch consists of two to four cream eggs, speckled with reddish-brown.

Diet and Feeding

The Red-breasted Meadowlark's diet primarily consists of insects and some seeds, including rice. It forages on the ground in a manner similar to that of a Bobolink.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Red-breasted Meadowlark as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats at present.

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