HE BECOMES STRIKINGLY CONSPICUOUS WHEREVER HE PERCHES WHEN HIS SUIT OF SHIMMERING BLACK FRAMES A PROMINENT RADIANT “REDCOAT” VEST
A bird that is often known for perching conspicuously atop grasses or small bushes wearing a shimmering black suit with a conspicuously prominent bright red vest.
MEET THE RED-BEASTED BLACKBIRD
The red-breasted meadowlark (Leistes militaris) is a small icterid around 19 cm long, weighing in at 48 grams for the male. He has mainly black plumage, apart from a bright red throat, belly, and wing epaulets. This striking “redcoat” plumage gives rise to the specific name militaris and the Trinidadian name “Soldier Bird”.
The female has buff-edged dark brown upperpart feathers, buff underparts with a reddish tinge, and pale streaks through the crown and eye.
Juveniles tend to resemble the female, but are paler and lack the reddish tint to the underparts.
The Red-breasted Blackbird can be found from southwestern Costa Rica, which it has recently colonized, and Trinidad, down south to northeastern Peru and central Brazil.
This bird is associated with open country, including moist grasslands, pasture, and cultivation, preferably with the odd bush or fence post for males to use as a song post.
This gregarious bird feeds mainly on insects and some seeds, including rice, foraging on the ground like a Bobolink.
The red-breasted blackbird builds a deep grass-lined open cup nest on the ground amongst tall grasses, with several nests often close together. The normal clutch is two to four reddish brown-blotched cream eggs.
The red grassland has been expanded by open habitat created by logging and grazing. It is uncertain whether the sightings in Tobago represent a small number of herders or travelers from Trinidad or South America.