The Rusty Blackbird is definitely one of North America’s lesser known blackbird species, a group that generally does not get the respect it deserves.
However, Rusties are of great concern to bird conservationists — their populations are severely declining for reasons are not immediately obvious. The Rusty Blackbird is on the current Watch List and even has a website of its own!
This is a species that breeds in the far northern Boreal Forest of Alaska and Canada and winters in the swamp forests of the southeastern United States. Unfortunately, its remote northern breeding grounds are very difficult to access for monitoring programs, so we have little data on its status in the breeding season. Even its bottomland hardwoods wintering habitat is not the easiest to access by programs such as the Christmas Bird Count. So it’s a species that requires a lot of lovin’ if we are to understand its current conservation status and what to do about it.
Fortunately, help is on the way, in the form of the International Rusty Blackbird Technical Working Group. Despite this group’s unwieldy name, it has brought together a diverse array of scientists and conservationists to address this exciting but enigmatic species.
One of the more innovative things they are doing is sponsoring the annual Rusty Blackbird Blitz to collect information on the blackbird’s distribution and concentration areas. This year’s Blitz will be January 30 – February 5, 2010. So, if you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, eastern Texas, Virginia, or West Virginia, I’d like to recommend that you get out and contribute to this worthwhile effort. You’ll have a good time, and the Rusties will thank you!
(Image: Male Rusty Blackbird. Credit: RustyBlackbird/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)