Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yard Bird: The "Vulnerable" Rusty Blackbird

We awakened to more ice and downed trees in our yard and throughout the Ozarks. Another day off of work and an excellent day to watch the feeders. After Marvin e-mailed me three great photos of a Rusty Blackbird yesterday, I must confess that I started taking a second look at the unwelcomed European Starlings in my backyard. Most people may not be aware that Rusty Blackbirds are facing a dramatic decline in numbers due to a number of issues. More about that later in the post.
This morning Marvin's e-mail stated "I have 3 Rusty Blackbirds slipping and sliding on the ice this morning". High number is 6 today.

Yesterday, Lisa commented on my Harris's Sparrow post, "Hey, why are we consuming all these fossil fuels heading out to the prairie, when our target birds end up in our back yards?"
"Good point, Lisa. I think I'll invite another uncommon bird to my icy retreat!" I said to myself.

Well, it happened again. Today, a lone Rusty Blackbird, a new life yard bird, arrived with a Brown-headed Cowbird! Marvin said that he "asked them to fly over to Ozark to show up at my feeder. No charge for that service."
Speaking of the increasingly vulnerable Rusty Blackbirds, this is the fifth time this winter that I've seen them in a 15 mile radius of here. Ten years ago there were few, if any, reports of Rusties in the Springfield area, with most winter sightings coming from the Duck Creek and Mingo areas in SE Missouri. This is good news, considering the dramatic decline in the numbers of this species elsewhere.

I'm hopeful that perhaps this "apparent", albeit modest, range expansion in its wintering grounds will help Rusty Blackbirds. Range expansion will not solve the species' image problem, however. It will have to be accompanied by the busting of "the only good blackbird is a dead blackbird" myth. Whenever possible, educate yourself and increase others' awareness of the plight of this threatened species. Be sure to report your sightings to the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend!

No comments: