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Posts Tagged ‘Rusty Blackbird’

With Halloween on the horizon, I thought I would share an image today of a Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The bird’s wide-open pale eyes give it an eerie look that fits in well with other Halloween icons like black cats, witches, and skeletons.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, “Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species. The population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause.” Needless to say, I was thrilled to see this Rusty Blackbird that appeared to part of a small flock high in the trees.

Rusty Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday the fields and forests of Huntley Meadows Park were alive with the sound of birds, lot of birds. I didn’t get a close enough look to identify the black birds, but they seem to be Rusty Blackbirds or Grackles. As they foraged, they moved from one spot to another in a great cloud of birds, all flying at the same time.

I tried to capture images of the birds with different backgrounds and especially like the first one below, which reminds me of some pf Escher’s pen-and-ink drawings of birds.

birds in flight

birds in flight

birds in flight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I spotted a very small flock of what I think are Rusty Blackbirds at Huntley Meadows Park. Unlike the much more common Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) like to forage in shallow pools of water at the edge of the woods, so they are often in the shadows

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species of birds. “The population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause.”

At this non-breeding time of the year, the male and the female have similar coloration, with the male having a darker head and breast. I may have captured a male in the first photo and a female in the second or they may both be females, with the differences caused by changed lighting in the two images.

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I encountered another small flock of blackbirds this past weekend and this time I managed to get a shot of a female Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus). If you want to compare the female with the male, check out my earlier posting with an image of a male.

I have now gotten used to the idea that these blackbirds are likely to be be found in the water and the mud, rather than in the cattails, where I usually find the Red-winged Blackbirds. I have also gotten used to the notion that female blackbirds are not black—that used to mess with my head.

What I have not gotten used to, however, is the pale yellow color of the eyes of the Rusty Blackbirds. There is something a little eerie and disconcerting about those eyes and I find them to be a bit creepy.

blackbird_rusty_female_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I saw a small flock of blackbirds on Monday at my local marsh, I assumed that they were Red-winged Blackbirds, but a closer look showed that I was wrong—they were Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus), a species that I had never photographed before.

The shape of the body seems similar to that of the Red-winged Blackbird, but the coloration is different and the pale yellow eyes of the Rusty Blackbird are particularly distinctive. They also seem to prefer a flooded area of the woods and I observed them pecking about in the shallow water, periodically flipping over wet leaves.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that the Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species, whose population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are not sure why.rusty_blackbird_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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