WatchList Species Account for Rusty Blackbird
(Euphagus carolinus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: USFWS

Photo: USFWS

The Rusty Blackbird breeds across northern North America from Alaska to eastern Canada, farther north than any other blackbird species. It nests near streams, bogs, muskeg swamps, and beaver ponds, generally in remote areas. It winters in flocks in the southeastern and midwestern U.S. Once common to abundant, it is now uncommon or rare, even at the center of its range. Data from 90 Breeding Bird Survey routes indicate it has declined over 10% annually from 1966 to 2001. Recent survey work in the Northwest Territories detected only a few birds in areas where it was common 50 years ago.


While other blackbirds have benefited from the spread of agriculture, the Rusty Blackbird is dependent on wooded wetlands where it takes mostly invertebrate prey. It is not well censused, since its breeding distribution is in far northern inhospitable boglands, far from roads and settlements.


The cause of its decline are unknown but speculation points to spraying of blackbird roosts, where the Rusty roosts with other blackbird species during the winter, and possibly the depredations of the West Nile Virus. Also, destruction and degradation of wetlands are a threat to the species, particularly of swamp and bottomland forests in the wintering range.