Weekend Birding: Rusty Blackbird
Spring and Fall are always exciting times for bird watchers as species migrate across the continent. The small pond a few blocks from my house has been attracting a variety of birds that I only get to see during migration. Almost every time I go for a walk I find a new bird. A few days ago I was excited to find a Rusty Blackbird walking at the edge of the water.
This bird spends the summer in the boreal forests in Canada and then migrates south and winters in the eastern U.S. (Click for range map). They can be identified by their rusty edged feather, pale yellow eyes and a bold eyebrow. The bird I saw was a female. The male is darker, a dull black with rusty bars.
Their preferred habitats are ponds, roadsides, landfills, wet meadows, and shrubby shorelines. Their diet consists of mostly insects and plant matter.
You’re probably wondering why I was excited to see a blackbird; aren’t they everywhere? No, not this species. The Red-winged Blackbird is common, but the Rusty Blackbird is not. This bird is classified by the IUCN as a Vulnerable Species and is on the Audubon Watchlist. Unfortunately their populations are in severe decline. The global population is estimated at less than two million individuals, a decline of over 85% over the last 40 years.
Scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause of their decline. The following possibilities are per Audubon:
Acid rain and mercury accumulation on the breeding grounds may be harming the species. Changes associated with global warming in the northern wetlands will continue to impact the Rusty Blackbird. Loss of wintering habitat has also played a role in this bird’s decreasing numbers. In addition, since Rusty Blackbirds sometimes join mixed blackbird flocks, they fall victim to lethal “blackbird control” programs which are indiscriminate.
I stood near the pond on that cool, windy morning for about 15 minutes and watched her until she few away. I wished her a safe journey.
Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.