Vounteers are needed to look for and count wintering rusty blackbirds (not grackles or starlings):
Rusty Blackbird has been a species in serious decline over the past four decades. Some estimates put the drop at over 80 percent during this period, but the precise figure is not known. Neither are the causes for decline known, although winter habitat loss and degradation are likely candidates. These blackbirds are becoming scarce and patchy in their winter distribution, making it difficult to focus the research and management efforts needed to save them.
Volunteers are being sought to help locate wintering concentrations of Rusty Blackbirds in order to hopefully get more accurate population numbers. The intent is to have an all out "blitz" to locate Rusty Blackbirds and in order to create a map of wintering Rusty Blackbird "hot spots" that will help focus future research, monitoring, and conservation attention.
During a nine-day period in February, volunteers are being asked to search in any locations and habitats deemed as potentially suitable for wintering Rusty Blackbirds, particularly for sizable flocks or concentrations of birds (i.e., dozens or even hundreds of birds).
Areas of note will be revisited in the future to determine if they are indeed Rusty Blackbird hot spots. Search efforts will be concentrated in the east-central United States, from eastern Nebraska to eastern Texas, and from southern New Jersey to Florida.
The dates for these searches are to be February 7 -15 -, the period when Rusty Blackbirds are expected to be easiest to find (i.e., males are singing) and the population is relatively sedentary.
The search effort is being led by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center along with assistance from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, all of which will be using eBird as the vehicle for data collection.
Click here for instructions and information on the identification, habitat preferences, range map, and general protocols for the Rusty Blackbird Count.