This past week a couple of small flocks of red-winged blackbirds made an appearance at my bird feeding area for the first time this winter. The birds ignored my seed and suet feeders and fed on the ground. This provided me with an excellent opportunity to witness them perform the double-scratch.
This is not a dance step; far from it, it is instead a fascinating foraging behavior. Ornithologists tell us that redwings, sparrows and some other birds use this maneuver to uncover hidden food.
FEMALE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD
As I watched the birds from my office window, I saw several of the redwings rapidly hop forward and back…twice. Ornithologists say that birds exhibiting this behavior use their toes to latch onto plant litter and pull it aside to expose any hidden insects or seeds.
If you are lucky enough to see birds demonstrating the double-scratch in your backyard, you will know that they are not dancing but simply trying to locate food.