Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rusty Blackbird watch

As fall migration winds down and winter knocks on the door we turn our attention to the species that have decided to stick it out here in Connecticut. One of these winter-only residents is the Rusty Blackbird that breeds in the boreal forests of Canada, as well as Alaska and extreme northern parts of the continental U.S. While not a part of the Connecticut Endangered Species Act, or on the Connecticut Audubon Society Top 20 Conservation Priority Species, the Rusty Blackbird has become more of a national concern in recent years as the population continues to plummet for unknown reasons. Therefore, it is of vital importance to log all sightings of not only the CT-ESA and CAS Top 20 species, but the Rusty Blackbird as well. You should do this in eBird (and preferably for all of your bird sightings). The male in the video below was present in my yard during the first week of January earlier this year.

As climate change continues it is likely more and more Rusty Blackbirds will attempt to overwinter in our state. We know of some hotspots, but many more of their preferred Connecticut locations are unknown. I find some of the species in my yard nearly every winter after a snowfall of three to four inches or more, but I do not know where they spend the rest of their time. Figuring out where large numbers occur in these months is crucial to help decipher the puzzle of why they are declining so quickly. You can read more about the species and what information is needed at the National Zoo's Migratory Bird Center where they are working on these very problems. Connecticut may not be a critically important area for the Rusty Blackbird, but anything we can do to help their relatively unnoticed yet precipitous fall will help.

Video © Scott Kruitbosch

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