RUSTY BLACKBIRD

RUSTY BLACKBIRD(Euphagus carolinus)
DESCRIPTION: The Rusty Blackbird is black overall during the breeding season. Outside that season the plumage takes on a rusty tone, hence the bird’s name. The bill and legs are also black, and the eyes are yellow.  This bird is smaller than the Common Grackle, at around 24 cm (9 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Euphagus-carolinus – The call of the rusty blackbird is similar to that of the grackle, to which it is related, and has been compared to a squeaky hinge.
NAME: The rusty blackbird (or ‘Rustie’ for short) owes its English name to its fall and winter plumage. The Latin genus name ‘Euphagus’ means ‘good to eat’. However this blackbird is not the one referred to in the nursery rhyme ‘Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ – rather, it is the Old World Common Blackbird. The Latin species name ‘Carolinus’ refers to the location of the first identified individual.
HABITAT: Rusty blackbirds are found in forested wetlands such as bogs, swamps and muskeg.
DIET:  Their diet is varied, from seeds to small fish and insects. Given the opportunity, this species will also prey on birds.
NESTING: The nest is a bowl-like structure built in a well-hidden location in a shrub near water. It includes wet materials that harden when dry. Around five blue-green eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female.
DISTRIBUTION:  The rusty blackbird overall breeding range encompasses most of Canada and Alaska, and it will winter in the southeast half of the United States.
ON PEI: The rusty blackbird breeds on Prince Edward Island, and its occurrence in spring, summer, and fall ranges from uncommon to fairly common, depending on the years. There have also been occasional sightings of this bird species in the winter on the island.
CONSERVATION: The rusty blackbird is considered as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN due to dramatic and steady declines in its population in the last decades, of as much as 90% in some areas. One important factor is loss of habitat, as wooded wetlands in its wintering grounds have been converted to agriculture.
The rusty blackbird is also an unintended victim of poisoning in its wintering range, even if this action is targeted at other blackbirds such as the Common Grackle and the Brown-headed Cowbird.
In its breeding range, wooded wetlands are becoming increasingly dry due to climate change. The birds are also contaminated with mercury in eastern Canada. There are now programs in place to try and reverse this ominous trend for the future of the species.
NOTES: Outside the breeding season this blackbird will mix with other blackbird species to form very large flocks.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusty_blackbird
https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=907 (COSEWIC)
https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/rusty-blackbird
https://identify.whatbird.com/obj/549/_/Rusty_Blackbird.aspx
International Rusty Blackbird Working Group
American Bird Conservancy (on the Rusty Blackbird)
Ontario Species At Risk (on the Rusty Blackbird)
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/rusty-blackbird (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Rusty Blackbird, breeding plumage - Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC - Apr. 25, 2010 - Cephas
Rusty Blackbird, breeding plumage – Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC – Apr. 25, 2010 – Cephas
Rusty Blackbird - Algonquin Provincial Park, ON - Oct. 7, 2006 - Mdf
Rusty Blackbird – Algonquin Provincial Park, ON – Oct. 7, 2006 – Mdf

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