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October 13, 2012 / Leslie

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. 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.



Leave a Comment
  1. Leeswammes / Oct 13 2012 2:25 am

    Great pictures! I think we only have one kind of blackbird here in the Netherlands. We had a pair that nested in our tree and saw the mother with two youngsters hopping about in the garden all summer. They’re not that special to look at, but it was fun to have a resident couple!


  2. Cipriano / Oct 13 2012 2:32 am

    That bird has the most intense EYEBALL on a bird I have ever seen, with my own.
    In that second picture, maybe he just lost his contact lense, and is trying to find it?


  3. Louise / Oct 13 2012 4:03 am

    How wonderful it must be to see migratory birds. I can see why you were thrilled. An endangered bird, and an intriguing one to observe. I love that black eye band. I hope their status becomes a bit more stable.


  4. BermudaOnion / Oct 13 2012 5:37 am

    What a treat for you to see her! I love that her coloring perfectly suits her environment. Thanks for sharing your photos.


  5. laurelrainsnow / Oct 13 2012 6:59 am

    What a poignant series of thoughts, considering the possible extinction of these birds. I wish them well on their journey, too!



  6. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Oct 13 2012 8:32 am

    Amazing; that wing spread is incredible.


  7. DizzyC / Oct 13 2012 8:43 am

    Fantastic photos, Leslie.
    How lovely the Rusty Blackbird is…and such piercing eyes



  8. Susan / Oct 13 2012 8:59 am

    What a bright and intense stare you got from her! It’s scary, isn’t it, that such diversity within species is in danger of being lost? Your posts are always so educational … thank you!


  9. Arti / Oct 13 2012 9:34 am

    It’s busy season for the birds. The eyes of this bird look so fierce. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so close to them… to tell if it’s a Rusty. These are great pictures. Thanks for sharing.


  10. Judy Blauer / Oct 13 2012 10:19 am

    You always have amazing bird photos. I can’t seem to have my camera ready when birds are in the area. And I think I need a better camera!! LOL


  11. Sharon Chance / Oct 13 2012 10:44 am

    I didn’t know there was such a bird as a Rusty Blackbird! Fascinating info about it too!


  12. joyweesemoll / Oct 13 2012 11:57 am

    Beautiful bird pictures! And I knew nothing about the Rusty Blackbird so thanks for all the info!


  13. Lisa H. (@AliveonShelves) / Oct 13 2012 12:11 pm

    That must be a lot of fun, seeing new birds all the time. Those are great pictures.


  14. Suko / Oct 13 2012 3:08 pm

    Beautiful photos as usual, Leslie. I had not even heard of the rusty blackbird before.

    (The soundtrack for this post includes these lyrics from the Beatles: Blackbird singing in the dead of night~Take these broken wings and learn to fly~All your life~You were only waiting for this moment to arise.)


  15. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Oct 13 2012 4:26 pm

    It’s so neat that you got to see this bird!


  16. Paulita / Oct 13 2012 6:37 pm

    I would never have guessed that this was a kind of blackbird. I love the one of it taking off. Nice capture. Here’s Mine


  17. Barbara / Oct 13 2012 8:49 pm

    I love discovering a new bird but am not always so lucky to get a photo!


  18. Ginny / Oct 14 2012 10:06 am

    Really great photos.


  19. Christine Harding / Oct 14 2012 10:39 am

    I am sure we only have common blackbirds here in England, so it’s fascinating to learn about other members of this bird ‘family’. No Snapshot from me this week, but I’m enjoying looking at everyone else’s.


  20. Carol / Oct 17 2012 1:09 pm

    I’ve never heard of a Rusty Blackbird. It looks like we’re in their migration area, but just barely.

    I actually love red-winged blackbirds and am happy whenever I see them.



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