Bird of the Week, March 22, 2013,
Rusty Blackbird


Rusty Blackbird by Mike Parr


The Rusty Blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird with a slender, slightly decurved bill, matte black plumage (in males), and pale yellow eye. They are North America’s most northern-nesting blackbird, and a characteristic breeding species of boreal forests. In winter, they gather in small flocks, sometimes mixing with Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and European Starlings. “Rusties” have a distinctive winter plumage, set off by red-brown feather edges.

This bird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species. Its population has plunged an estimated 85 percent or more over the past 40 years, and scientists are not sure as to the exact cause.

Destruction and degradation of wetlands appear to be the chief threat to the Rusty Blackbird, both on its boreal breeding grounds and across its wintering range.


Conservation measures needed to help this species recover include further study of the bird’s ecology and natural history; finding specific causes for its disappearance; and continued monitoring of its populations. The International Rusty Blackbird Technical Working Group, formed in 2005, continues work to better understand this species’ steep decline.





Photo: Mike Parr; Range Map, NatureServe