Spring has sprung at Powell Gardens and the return of many of the garden’s birds are a sure sign of it. One of the earliest birds to arrive each year are the Red-winged Blackbirds, which often return at the end of February whether there is snow on the ground or not.
Last year, one particular male Red-winged Blackbird who resided on the Island Garden was named “Fabio” by Senior Gardener Caitlin Bailey. I witnessed the bird last summer when I was “on duty” at the Island Garden during our Booms and Blooms Festival. This particular male Red-wing is a show off and seems to delight in displaying to visitors on the Island Garden. He would often prance around the rocks of the spring water pool and show off the brilliant red epaulets on his wings to passersby! What a ham.
Afterwards I mentioned the bird to Caitlin and she said “oh yes, that’s Fabio!”
When they return in spring, Male Red-winged Blackbirds look like this one photographed by Linda Williams. Their plumage often still has some brown edgings to the feathers and they hide their red-wing epaulets. When breeding season commences over the next month or two the males wear their feathers to true, beautiful black and they show off their yellow-rimmed, red-wings to impress the ladies and to proclaim their territory and ward off would-be intruders.
We are lucky to have Fabio in the Island Garden because he actually likes our garden’s human visitors. Male Red-wings often can be downright nasty to visitors and dive bomb people! The last time I was at the Laurie Garden in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, a section of the garden was closed because of one such Red-wing!!!
Fabio returned on Tuesday, February 21, and is starting to claim the garden as his territory, calling from the crabapple trees on the Island Garden this week. The Island Garden pools will be filled with water next week, so watch for Fabio the next time you visit the Island Garden. We will keep you updated on his antics this year and may even share some images of his gals (females arrive later after the males have set up territories) and their nests.