Bird of the Week – Rusty Blackbird

Some years ago, Mrs. WC got a telephone call from a lady who reported there were a lot of “baby Ravens” in her yard. After careful questioning, Mrs. WC established they were Rusty Blackbirds which, after all, are nearly black, even if they don’t otherwise resemble Common Ravens very much, and “baby Ravens” not at all.

Rusty Blackbird, Richardson Highway, Big Delta

Rusty Blackbird, Richardson Highway, Big Delta

Joking aside, Rusty Blackbirds are a species in trouble. Their populations have declined catastrophically. Data from long-term surveys like the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Counts suggest that Rusty Blackbird numbers have plummeted a staggering 85-95% since the mid-1900’s. It’s likely some combination of loss of winter habitat, loss of breeding habitat and competition, especially from Common grackles. But the science is uncertain.

A true specialist of the boreal forest, they like swampy areas, muskeg and sluggish streams. The male’s call is an unmusical rusty hinge sound. In the autumn, mixed flocks of Rusty and Red-winged Blackbirds move through the forest, eating berries and bugs, fueling up for migration south. And creating telephone calls about “baby Ravens.”

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.