Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"The bird that's experienced the steepest population declines in North America in recent decades is also one that few people have heard of: the Rusty Blackbird"..... "Rusty blackbird populations have decreased by about 95 percent in the last 50 years, but the reasons are not well understood"..........Research by SUNY College Researchers in Maine and New Hampshire hypothesize that one of the key reasons for the decline is boon cone production years for Fir and spruce trees...............When the cones are prolific, so are seeds that Red Squirrels thrive on..............More Squirrels born the following year bring on greater predation of Rusty Blackbird eggs...........Combine the boon and bust cone seed years with the destruction of the southern boreal forests for timber,agriculture, oil and gas---Add in wetland destruction in the southeast where the birds overwinter and the perfect storm of destruction for the Rusty's continues without abatement in sight.........Would restoring the wetlands and the Boreal forest halt the slide?-------# Rusty Blackbird declines, # boreal forest fragmentation, # mast years

Cones, squirrels, and rusty blackbird nests

Declining songbirds caught in a complex web

Conservation Issues

Rusty Blackbirds have experienced one of the most significant declines ever documented among North American birds in recent times.  Data from long-term surveys such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count suggest that Rusty Blackbird numbers have plummeted a staggering 85-95% since the mid-1900’s (Greenberg and Droege, 1999).  Anecdotal accounts also suggest a chronic, more gradual decline beginning as early as the first part of the twentieth century.  Despite this precipitous drop in population, it is only relatively recently that the scientific community has become more broadly aware of the Rusty Blackbird’s desperate plight.  Earlier recognition of population declines was likely inhibited in part by the elusive nature of this species, their close association with wooded wetlands and other habitats that are often difficult to access, and cultural norms that cause  “blackbirds” to be overlooked as common and resilient species (Greenberg and Matsuoka, 2010).
Several hypotheses have been suggested to explain the decline.  Loss of wooded wetlands in southeastern wintering grounds is a likely contributor, as over 80% of this habitat has been converted to agriculture and other land uses.  Other possible factors on the wintering grounds include increased competition for food with other blackbird species – such as Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles – as well as increased exposure to an unknown disease to which it has not developed strong immunity.
On the breeding grounds, habitat loss and degradation are also concerns.  Climate change is causing boreal breeding wetlands to become increasingly prone to drying and is generally altering hydrological cycles and weather patterns in ways that threaten the species’ habitats and associated food resources.   Because Rusty Blackbirds depend on shallowly flooded boreal wetlands while breeding and raising young, future climatic changes may have a profound effect on the continued capacity for successful reproduction and population recruitment.  Rusty Blackbirds have also been found to have high levels of mercury in their bodies on the breeding grounds, which may have harmful effects on their immune systems and general health (Edmonds et al, 2010).
Although intensive studies over the last decade have yielded much-needed information on basic biology, ecology and conservation of these unusual blackbirds, any central cause behind their plunging population remains obscure and speculative.  What is probable is that there is no “smoking gun” and no single cause for their decline, but rather a combination of different stressors working together to create a “perfect storm.”
The International Rusty Blackbird Working Group (IRBWG) strives to use strong science to evaluate strategies to reverse the extensive decline of this vulnerable species.  However, we still lack critical information about certain aspects of Rusty Blackbird ecology, especially during migration. In 2014, the IRBWG will launch a Spring Migration Blitz to increase our understanding of Rusty Blackbird migration in order to advance conservation of the Rusty Blackbird. In addition, the group has identified ongoing research needs that address knowledge gaps; this research will allow us to develop and hone effective conservation strategies for this declining species.


Edmonds, S. T., Evers, D. C. , Cristol, D. A., Mettke-Hofmann, C. , Powell, L. L., McGann, A. J., Armiger J. W., Lane, O. P., Tessler, D. F., Newell, P., Heyden, K. and O’Driscoll, N. J. (2010). Geographic and seasonal variation in mercury exposure of the declining Rusty Blackbird. Condor, 112(4): 789–799.
Greenberg, R. and Droege, S. (1999). On the decline of the Rusty Blackbird and the use of ornithological literature to document long-term population trends. Conservation Biology, 13(3): 553–559.
Greenberg, R. and Matsuoka, S. M. (2010). Special section: Rangewide ecology of the declining Rusty Blackbird. Rusty Blackbird: Mysteries of a species in decline. Condor, 112(4): 770–777.

No comments: