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Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz- Calling All Birders!

posted Jan 21, 2014, 8:08 AM by Arie Gilbert
        “Get Rusty” this spring to save a declining blackbird!

Why?  Over the past half-century, the historically abundant Rusty Blackbird has endured one of the steepest population declines ever documented among North American landbirds. Within the last 15 years, scientists have learned more about this bird’s breeding and wintering ecology, and this knowledge allows us to target conservation initiatives during these phases of this bird’s annual cycle.  However, as with many migratory species, we know very little about Rusty Blackbird ecology, distribution, and habitat use during migration. Are there hot spots where many individuals congregate?  Are there stopover areas that are used predictably each year, and are these locations protected? The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz will address these and other questions to help focus future research and conservation of one of North America’s most vulnerable blackbirds. We’re recruiting an army of birders to participate in this effort to help conserve this fascinating songbird.  Will you accept our birding challenge?

Who?  The International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, eBird, and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies are partnering with local organizations to recruit volunteer observers from across the southeastern U.S., East Coast, Midwest, Alaska, and Canada.

What? Each participating state, province, and territory will have a 3-8 week target window during which birders will search for Rusty Blackbirds.  Within this window, birders may explore favored birding haunts or newly identified areas that they suspect may harbor Rusty Blackbirds. We’ll provide some guidance on potential habitats to explore, but birders should feel free to get creative – and ambitious! – with their searching.

When?  Spring 2014 kicks off the first year of this three-year Spring Migration Blitz; the Blitz window will span early March through mid-June, with more specific time frames identified for each state or province to account for the northward migratory progression.  Target dates for New York State are March through April.

Where?  Get ready for a continent-wide event!  The Spring Blitz will span the Rusty Blackbird’s entire spring migration range, from the wintering grounds in the southeastern United States, up the East Coast and through the Midwest to Canada and Alaska.

How do I get involved?  Easy!  If you’d like to contribute data to the Spring Migration Blitz effort, bird as you normally do, focusing on potential Rusty Blackbird habitat during the Blitz time frame established for your region.  You can seek out the best-known places for Rusty sightings or explore uncharted territory.  Make sure to report ALL of your observations to eBird – we want to know both where you saw these birds and where you didn’t.  Check out the newly revamped website of the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group ( for information about identification, vocalizations, habitat preferences, and types of data to collect to support this initiative. Also, check with your NYC/LI coordinator Derek Rogers ( for additional ways you can help with the Blitz efforts in your region, or contact Spring Migration Blitz Coordinator Judith Scarl ( to get involved in the broader Blitz initiative!

Thanks for “Getting Rusty” with us this spring!  Like us on Facebook ( to follow up-to-the minute information about our Blitz, and happy birding!

The International Rusty Blackbird Working Group
eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Vermont Center for Ecostudies