Rusty BB

The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a species in deep trouble. According to the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, the species has shown “chronic long-term and acute short-term population declines,” more so than any other species we see. The numbers are startling, with a population plummet from 85-95% over the last century. The reason for this isn’t definite; although I would hazard that the 80% reduction of wooded wetlands in their southeastern wintering grounds goes a good way to explaining the crisis. Climate change in the north is also telling: the wet boreal summers are drying out. Another aspect is cultural: none of the blackbird species are seen as cute celebrity-charismatics; and, in fact, some, like the Red-winged Blackbird, are considered pests, and efforts to eradicate them must inevitably kill some of this species as well. Few have paid any attention to the decline until recently.

This year marks the centennial of the last Passenger Pigeon; who the hell wants to live through another species’ disappearance? The IRBWG’s Spring Migration Blitz is an effort to survey the birds as they make their way to their boreal breeding grounds. The survey begins this month; New York state’s portion lasts from March 1-April 31. Keep an eye out for these birds (there’s good ID help on their site) and report on ebird.Euphagus carolinusI photographed this female last month in Prospect Park, where the lack of leash law enforcement continues to stress all species. She was still sporting her basic (non-breeding) plumage.

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