Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz!

I have just received an email from our ebird co-ordinator, declaring the fact that a) the Rusty Blackbird population is declining rapidly, and also b) there is going to be a “Rusty Blackbird Blitz.”  The Blitz will be held at different times in different places, judging on when they migrate through various states and provinces.

Thanks to Amar Athwal for these photos.

Thanks to Amar Athwal for these photos.

This is the email:

Prior to 1920, the Rusty Blackbird was a common to abundant species in North America. By 1950, a decline in its population was apparent. And since the 1960s, the species has been in a free fall with its numbers dropping by up to 95 per cent!
Over the last 15 years, scientists have been working to identify threats to the species. Because “Rusties” require forested wetlands, they’ve likely suffered as a result of wetland destruction on their wintering grounds in the U.S. Southeast. It’s also likely that they’ve been incidental victims of blackbird control programs there.
On their breeding grounds in more northerly forests, climate change (which may reduce the extent of boreal wetlands and alter their chemistry and invertebrate communities) could be taking a toll. And human activities such as logging, peat production, and reservoir formation have affected Rusty Blackbird breeding habitat by consuming boreal wetlands and altering hydrology. Acid rain and mercury contamination may also be affecting this habitat.
While the greatest Rusty Blackbird declines have been seen in the breeding populations of eastern North America, the current and planned industrialization of the boreal forest here in western Canada could deal a major blow to our breeding populations.
Thanks to Amar Athwal for these photos.

Thanks to Amar Athwal for these photos.

But while we’re getting a clearer picture of the threats faced by this species in winter and summer, we still know very little about its ecology, distribution, and habitat use during migration. Are there hotspots where Rusties congregate? Are there stopover areas that they use predictably each year, and are these locations protected?
These are questions that the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz is hoping to answer. The blitz, which kicks off this spring, is a three-year citizen science project organized by the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, eBird, and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Birders from across the southeastern U.S., East Coast, Midwest, Alaska, and Canada (all areas through which Rusties migrate) are being encouraged to participate in the blitz.
Participating is easy: Simply go birding this spring and submit your bird sightings to eBird (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/). Even if you don’t find any Rusties on your outings, the bird sightings you submit will contribute to the blitz by showing when and where Rusties were not found.

I’m going to particpate in this, and think that you should find out more, if not participate!

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