Rusty Blackbird  ( Quiscale rouilleux )      This species is of special interest to Timiskaming birders.    All sightings should be documented and reported.

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Euphagus carolinus

Description:    Rusty Blackbird
Photo Date:   April 19, 2009


Hilliard Twp.


Michael Werner

General Notes

The North American population of this species has decreased by 84% in the forty years spanning 1966 to 2006, according to a recent analysis of Christmas Bird Count records conducted by National Audubon Society scientists. Although there is insufficient data about this species to be highly confident in the actual magnitude of the population decline, the trend is considered statistically significant.

Designated as a species of Special Concern in April 2006 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).  More than 70% of the breeding range of the species is in Canada’s boreal forest. The species has experienced a severe decline that appears to be ongoing, albeit at a slower rate. There is no evidence to suggest that this trend will be reversed. Known threats occur primarily on the winter range, and include habitat conversion and blackbird control programs in the United States.

Couples nest in isolated pairs on the margins of wetlands in the boreal forest, favouring the shores of slow-moving streams, peat bogs, marshes, swamps, beaver ponds and pasture edges. In wooded areas, the Rusty Blackbird only rarely enters the forest interior. The Rusty Blackbird feeds mainly on invertebrates, particularly aquatic insect larvae, crustaceans, and snails associated with aquatic environments. It also feeds on salamanders and small fish. During the winter, the Rusty Blackbird supplements its diet with seeds and small fruits. Depending on the latitude, birds usually reach their breeding grounds in April or May. Southward migration begins in late August and lasts until early October.

The most serious threat to the Rusty Blackbird is thought to be the conversion of its main wintering grounds, the forests in the Mississippi Valley flood plains, for agricultural or human habitation purposes. Other activities, such as the conversion of wetlands and the creation of hydroelectric reservoirs, could lead to further habitat destruction in the species’ breeding range.

In addition, it is quite likely that Rusty Blackbird populations are affected by bird control programs designed to reduce populations of birds that ravage crops. These programs, which have been ongoing in the southeastern United States since the 1970s, seek to reduce “blackbird” populations, such as the Red-winged Blackbird, the Common Grackle, the European Starling, and the Cowbird. The Rusty Blackbird is indirectly affected by these programs, since it intermingles with these species along its migratory routes and in its winter range.

Abundance: Uncommon Earliest observed date:  

Typical arrival date:

April 8
Breeding Status: Breeding Latest observed date:  

Typical departure date:

September 14

Documented Observations


April 14, 1988. One observed at Mountain Chutes Camp by Barry Kinch.

April 19, 2009. Eighteen observed and photographed near the west end of Hilliard River Road in Hilliard Twp.


Banding Results






2000   2   2
2002   11   11
2004   1 2 3
2005   1 1 2
2006   1   1