The visit to the Bosque del Apache National Park in New Mexico was motivated very clearly and unambiguously. The priority was to meet the thousand-headed flocks of Sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis) and snow geese (Chen caerulescens). Here, these arctic birds end their journey across the entire North American continent to spend the winter in the Rio Grande Valley.
As in most places in the northern hemisphere, here in the northern part of the Sonoran desert, the species diversity of the local ornithological fauna has been narrowed to wintering species. Nevertheless, we found many bird species here, which were no less interesting, as mentioned by visitors from the far north. One of them was one of the most abundant, almost ubiquitous Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).
The Red-winged blackbird is a very elegant bird species. It is slightly larger in size than our european starling. The adult male is all black, including the beak, and his feathers on his back, wings, and tail are adorned with an ocher hem. In the bend of each wing, it has a striking, bright red spot, which is amplified once again by a golden-colored spot. Sleds and young birds are colored much more modestly.
The comparison to a starling is apt in terms of way of life. It is a very fearless bird that is not afraid to defend its territory even against much larger species, such as crows, magpies or smaller predators. The red-winged woodpecker is widespread on most of the North American continent. It nests from Alaska and Newfoundland south to Florida, Mexico and Guatemala. It inhabits open grassy landscapes. He prefers wetlands, both with fresh and salt water. It also occurs in arid plateaus, where it inhabits meadows, prairies and unmaintained fields. While birds from the western part of the North American continent and Central America remain in their nesting sites throughout the year, northern populations are migratory to wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico.
Many of the flocks we observed in the Bosque del Apache undoubtedly also belonged to these northern populations. Because this species is omnivorous, it likes to use the food menu, which is purposefully part of the management of the national park, prepared mainly for Nordic cranes and geese. Red-winged Moorhen could be found everywhere. They did not prefer any habitat and could be seen both individually and in thousands of flocks. Cattail stands in local wetlands, desert landscapes with succulents and cacti, corn fields, curbs on unpaved sandy roads for cars in the national park, a lone tree in the middle of a lake. In addition, the birds are very grateful to the observers. They are constantly active, tirelessly in motion. Undoubtedly, they are very intelligent, as evidenced by the constant communication between them.
For nature photographers, of course, the most interesting times for photography are early in the morning and late in the evening. We regularly filled the time we spent during the day by observing and photographing this very interesting species. In his case, there was still something to take pictures of and he was, so to speak, constantly “available”. In addition, these birds are not particularly timid, so in most cases they give the photographer time and space to take interesting compositional and content images.
Especially in the parking lots around supermarkets and garbage cans, we can observe a related species of bird in cities in close proximity to people. They are constantly arguing with each other, but in case of danger, the flock acts as a well-coordinated street gang.