The Rusty Blackbird seems to be a species that has been slipping under the radar. Maybe it's because they spend much of their time inaccessible to most birders, breeding far north in boggy boreal forests, wintering in swamps and wet woodlands, and not typically flocking with the other "nuisance" blackbirds. Part of it may be because they aren't as charismatic as other flashy passerines. Whatever the reasons, it's nearing tragic proportions, like the Passenger Pigeon and Ivory-billed Woodpecker before them: based on Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count data, it's estimated their population has declined between 88 and 98% since 1966.
Nineteen sixty-six, people! That's not just modern era, that's immediate history, mostly within my lifetime. Let's think about it for a moment. The Beatles played their last concert in 1966 (and released Revolver), Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde and the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds; Star Trek debuted, the Dick Van Dyke Show aired it's last episode; the first Kwanzaa was celebrated and the Church of Satan was formed (note those two events are not related: the former happened in Long Beach, the latter in San Francisco).
OK, back to the point. Though the BNA Online account for the Rusty Blackbird points out difficulties in using existing data, it also highlights, "Numbers of winter Rusty Blackbirds in the s. U.S. need to be documented regularly and accurately."
I don't think it's an overstatement to say we need better data during migration and on the breeding ground, too.
Well, eBird is undertaking an effort to accurately generate more consistent documentation and asking your help. If you see a Rusty Blackbird, please submit your observations to eBird, whether you are within the focus period (April 1 - 7) or not - all observations are important!
Read more about the project on the eBird News and Features.
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