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Species Guide

Red-shouldered Blackbird

Agelaius assimilis

The Red-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius assimilis), a passerine bird endemic to Cuba, is a member of the Icteridae family. It is distinguished by its striking red shoulders, which are fringed with yellow, and the all-black plumage of the female, setting it apart from its close relative, the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).

Identification Tips

Males of this species can be identified by their red epaulets bordered with yellow on their wings, while females are entirely black. Males measure approximately 22 centimeters in length and weigh between 46 to 54 grams, whereas females are slightly smaller at about 20 centimeters and weigh between 36 to 43 grams.


The Red-shouldered Blackbird is found exclusively in the marshy wetlands of Cuba, where it is a sedentary resident.


This bird is confined to western Cuba and the Isle of Youth, occupying a range of only 4,100 square kilometers.


The Red-shouldered Blackbird exhibits monogamous breeding behavior, a contrast to the polygynous Red-winged Blackbird. Both male and female contribute equally to feeding their chicks. They are non-migratory and remain within the swampy areas throughout the year.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Red-shouldered Blackbird are less frequent than those of the Red-winged Blackbird. Males and females share similar songs, which can be performed solo or in duets, with the male typically perched above the female during the latter.


Breeding occurs in the swamps of western Cuba and the Isle of Youth. The Red-shouldered Blackbird is known for its monogamous pairings during the breeding season.

Similar Species

The Red-shouldered Blackbird is similar to the Red-winged Blackbird, but can be differentiated by the all-black female plumage and the less pronounced sexual dimorphism.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of insects, seeds, and fruits. They forage within the marshes and do not venture far from their nests to feed.

Conservation status

The species is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with stable population numbers and no significant threats identified.

In the gentle whispers of the Cuban marshes, the Red-shouldered Blackbird sings a subtle duet, a testament to its unique and enduring presence in this tropical haven.

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Red-shouldered Blackbirds on Birda

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Ernesto Reyes
08 Jan 2021 - 9:22am

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