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Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz

Posted on Feb 26, 2014

I am posting the following as a member of the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, an affiliation I have had for several years as they are one of my favorite bird species. They’re also in tremendous trouble and very few people know about it.

Rusty Blackbird with Red-winged Blackbird

Male Rusty Blackbird on right feeding with male Red-winged Blackbird on left. Rusty Blackbirds are often part of mixed migratory and foraging flocks with additional species such as the Common Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird.

Have you heard a squeaky-hinge song lately, or seen a flash of rust-tipped feathers under a bright yellow eye? Although occasionally overlooked as “just another blackbird,” Rusty Blackbirds face an unfortunate and remarkable notoriety: this species has endured a decline more severe than that of any other once-common landbird. In March of 2014, the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, eBird, and many other state, federal, and local partners, will launch a Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz that challenges birders to scour the landscape for Rusty Blackbirds during this species’ northward migration. 38 states, 9 provinces, and 3 territories will participate in this international effort to find Rusty Blackbirds; each region is assigned a set of target dates during which local birders will seek this elusive species. It’s easy to participate – bird as you normally do during your state’s target dates and submit your data to eBird using the “Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz” observation type.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) Stratford 3-001

Rusty Blackbird male in the beginning of winter. Some of the species attempts to overwinter in northern areas of the U.S. and finds additional food in yards and at feeders.

Interested in learning more about Rusty Blackbirds, or want to learn more about your state/province’s Blitz efforts?  Use our Migration Blitz website to find out the target dates for your region, learn more about Rusty Blackbird identification, or get more details about Blitz data collection and submission. For our local friends the New York blitz begins on March 1 and runs through April 30 while Pennsylvania’s is run from mid-March through mid-April. You can find the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group Facebook page here.

Thank you all for your efforts for the decimated Rusty Blackbirds! Only with the help of citizen scientists like you can we properly assess their current status and help plan for a future that protects the population while supporting their recovery.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch