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Thousands of Red-Winged Blackbirds
weave across the prairie sky—
sometimes in throngs miles long.
They flash black
then seem to disappear
then flash back again
as they fly their way low
above the grass.
Sometimes their shadows
flicker about the rooms
in the house
as they fly overhead.
They fill winter branches
with black leaves
and fill the air with
heart-stirring chatter.
They are a winter signature
here on the prairie.

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Sometimes I fear for the little birds
who come to feed
at the bird feeders I fill each day.
I fill the feeders at a time
the black birds have already quieted for the night
and the littler birds can get some supper.
The large flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds
can clean the ground of the birdseed
strewn there
in minutes.
There is always a tension for me
when the big flocks are feeding.
I thrill when sunlight strikes
that spot of red tucked in their black wings;
their fluttering around the feeders
as they vie for another seed
is fascinating.
But I am always anxious for those who fly away
from the feeders
as the bigger birds alight.

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Yesterday,
two friends visited—
one in the morning
and one in the afternoon.
Our conversations were a balm,
and compelling;
each friend
was thrilled and compelled too
as she caught sight
of the Red-Winged Blackbirds
at the bird feeders.
They each recognized the birds,
mentioned they don’t get to see them
in the cities where they live,
and watched the birds—
so close,
at the feeders—
with much gladness.

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