Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rusty Blackbird in WMA

I noticed a surprise bird at the feeding station located in our Wildlife Management Area on the morning after the recent nor'easter.  At first glimpse you might think it was a common grackle, but after years of staring at birds you tend to know right away when something is different.  The eye is just not as brightly yellow.  The beak not quite as robust and the tail not as long as the common grackles that I see about every couple of weeks at the feeding station. 

Rusty Blackbirds are in dire straits.  The population is estimated to have dropped by over 85% the last forty years.  It was a mystery as to why they were so rapidly disappearing from their habitat of swampy and wet woodlands.  As with most declining species today the most common cause purported is habitat loss.  The conversion of wet woodlands to farmland was probably the initial cause.  The continued decline in our time can most likely be attributed to mercury accumulation(their diet is mainly aquatic insects), boreal wetland drying and chemistry changing due to global warming, and peat production, logging, and reservoir formation.    More study is still needed to establish what can be done to save them.  One of the best ways for you to help is to participate in the yearly Great Backyard Bird Count.

-Steve Ricker/Resident Director

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