Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rusty Blackbirds: Species Profile

Yesterday while I was birding at the Skating Pond at Eagle Creek Park, I came across a flock of 15 Rusty Blackbirds. Rusties are one of my favorite blackbird species but I don't get to see them all that often. Rusty Blackbirds are one of the most rapidly declining species in North America with studies showing declines anywhere between 85 and 99 percent over the last 50 years. One of the strangest things is that no one seems to be sure why this species is in such step decline.
Rusty Blackbirds favor wet areas such as marshes and the edges of ponds which makes the Skating Pond an amazing to see them during late October and early November when they are migrating through the area. Although they are reported in Indiana all winter, they do not hang out at Eagle Creek once the water freezes.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Rusty Blackbird has to do with its molt. they undergo only one molt per year. This means the rusty coloration that we see at this time of year is not molted, rather it is worn away over the winter and the males are jet black and the females are mostly gray by the time breeding season comes along.

Rusty Blackbird in Nonbreeding Plumage
If you are here in central Indiana, be on the lookout for some Rusty Blackbirds over the next few weeks and again in March. If not, you can learn more about when they will be in your area by using the eBird map that you can find here.


-Rob

1 comment:

Birding is Fun! said...

I found one of these in the Boise Idaho foothills a couple years back. It was all the rage for a week and a nice Idaho rarity.