Rusty Blackbirds, which breed in freshwater wetlands across boreal Canada and the U.S., have experience tremendous declines (89%) in recent decades. During the 1990’s this Common Bird in Steep Decline experienced a population loss of 10% annually. Despite a fairly recent surge of concern and increased research by conservationists, the specific threats to their survival remain difficult to pinpoint. Coordinated efforts, include the eBird-based Winter Blitz and the Spring Migration Blitz, have increased awareness and understanding of their distribution during the nonbreeding period.
The Rusty Blackbird Working Group has determined that habitat loss and fragmentation on both the breeding and wintering grounds are likely influencing the blackbird’s survival. The Working Group has begun filling in major holes in the species’ basic biology, including habitat requirements, nesting behavior, factors affecting nesting success, and winter foraging and roosting behavior. The group ultimately seeks to develop effective management plans to support the conservation of this vulnerable species.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Wetland - boreal forest
Wintering: Wetland - eastern forest
Breeding – Changing Forest Conditions, Climate Change
Wintering – Changing Forest Conditions, Agricultural Conversion
Population Loss Since 1970: -89%
Urgency/Half Life: 19 years
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2016-3.1 Vulnerable
U.S. Conservation Status: N/A
Canadian Conservation Status: Special Concern (COSEWIC 2007); Schedule 1, Special Concern (SARA)
Birds of Conservation Concern: USFWS – Bird of Conservation Concern
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half Life|
|Canadian Eastern Boreal Region||62%||-70%||***|
|Western Boreal Joint Venture||22%||-71%||> 50 years|
|Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture||13%||-3%||> 50 years|
|Gulf Coast Joint Venture (W)||AI = 5||***||***|
|Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (W)||AI = 5||***||***|
|Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (W)||AI = 4||***||***|
|East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture (W)||AI = 4||***||***|
*** indicates insufficient or unreliable data to calculate a regional long-term change or half-life estimate.
(W) indicates the region supports a significant wintering population of this species.
Species Conservation Plans:
- Evans 2016. Summary report: Assessing Rusty Blackbird habitat suitability on wintering grounds and during spring migration using a large citizen-science dataset.
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
- Wohner et al. 2016. Weather affects diet composition of rusty blackbirds wintering in suburban landscapes.
- Luepold et al. 2015. Habitat selection, nest survival, and nest predators of Rusty Blackbirds in northern New England, USA
- Strassburg et al. 2015. Winter habitat associations of blackbirds and starlings wintering in the south-central United States.
- Mettke-Hofmann et al. 2015. Competition and habitat quality influence age and sex distribution in wintering rusty blackbirds.
- Powell et al. 2014. Habitat occupancy of Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) breeding in northern New England.
- Edmonds et al. 2012. Factors regulating the bioavailability of methylmercury to breeding rusty blackbirds in northeastern wetlands.
- Johnson et al. 2012. Identifying Migratory Pathways Used by Rusty Blackbirds Breeding in Southcentral Alaska.
- Greenberg et al. 2011. Understanding Declines in Rusty Blackbirds.
- Savard et al. 2011. Exploratory analysis of correlates of the abundance of rusty blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) during fall migration.
- Foss and Lambert 2017. Guidelines for Managing Rusty Blackbird Habitat in New York and Northern New England
- Environment Canada 2015. Management Plan for the Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) in Canada