Got a question about the Blitz? We can help! If your question isn’t answered here, contact your state/province coordinator for more information.
First, check out our Identification Tips page, which includes a Rusty Blackbird Identification Guide. Learn about how Rusty plumage changes over spring migration, and find descriptions of common look-alike species.
However, Rusties can be tricky to identify, even for experienced birders, so if you’re still not confident about your identification skills, consider bringing a camera to take pictures of the birds you observe; you can ask a more experienced birder to verify the bird’s identity for you.
Another great way to help with the Blitz is to ask a local nature center to print the Rusty Blackbird Fact Sheet and make copies available to visitors. Help us spread the word about this species!
Rusty Blackbirds usually begin their northward migration in early March, and some individuals don’t reach their northernmost breeding areas until late May. We evaluated historical migration information in eBird and assigned each participating state/province target dates based on when the majority of Rusty Blackbird pass-through would occur in that region. However, these target dates are only suggestions; migratory timing varies annually and some individuals may be early or late migrants within a given year. Even if you observe a Rusty Blackbird outside of the target dates for your region, please report your sightings to the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz.
Yes, please! We use Rusty Blackbird data from outside of spring migration to develop new projects (like a Fall Migration Blitz- stay tuned!) and add to our understanding of Rusty Blackbird habitat use and populations during all seasons. Note that the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz protocol option is only available between 1 March and 15 July, so please enter your Rusty sightings under a different protocol (traveling count, stationary count, incidental observation) outside of this window.
This question has a two-part answer: first, since we are hoping to learn more about the types of habitat Rusties use during migration, we hope you’ll help us figure this out! If you see Rusties, regardless of where you are or whether you’re specifically searching for them, please report them- and note what type of habitat they’re using.
In general, however, Rusty Blackbirds are often (but not always) associated with shallow water, such as in flooded forests, along the edges of beaver flowages/creeks/ponds, or in flooded fields. Rusty Blackbirds can also be found in pecan orchards, in agricultural feedlots, or even at backyard bird feeders. If you target your searches to these areas, you may be more likely to find Rusties. Visit our potential habitat page to see pictures of some types of Rusty migratory habitat.
In some states and provinces, local coordinators are leading field trips to Rusty Blackbird habitat during the Blitz. Contact your state or provincial coordinator to see if any trips are scheduled in your area.
The eBird Quick Start Guide is a great resource for learning how to use eBird. Please follow these instructions, except under the “How” section, select the “Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz” protocol under “Other.” Also, check back here in early March; we’ll be creating an eBird data entry tutorial specific to the Blitz.
In addition to basic data required by eBird, we hope you’ll collect some additional information about Rusties, such as how many males and females you see, what habitat they are in, and what they are doing. Check out our optional Blitz datasheet to see what information we’re interested in collecting.
The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz protocol option is available in eBird between 1 March and 15 July during each Blitz year (2014-2016). Please submit your reports under this protocol:
-when you searched specifically for Rusties between 1 March and 15 June, regardless of whether you observed this species or not.
-when you observed Rusties between 1 March and 15 June, even if you weren’t specifically searching for them
Note that while we do use Rusty Blackbird reports that were not submitted under the Blitz protocol, using the Blitz protocol to report this species both helps us to quantify Blitz effort and prompts the observer to enter additional observation details that we’re interested in, such as number of males and females observed and specific species comments. However, if you were not searching specifically for Rusties and prefer to enter your data under another protocol type, we can still use your information for the Blitz.
Our “Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz” protocol option is available under “Observation Type- Other” in eBird between 1 March and 15 July only. If you are reporting Rusty sightings outside of the normal Spring Blitz dates, please submit your observations under one of the regular observation type options.
We do use all Rusty Blackbird observations submitted to eBird during our target dates in our analyses. However, we prefer that Rusty Blackbird observations, as well as birding trips where observers are searching specifically for Rusty Blackbirds, are submitted under the Blitz protocol for three reasons:
- The most reliable way for us to know that a birder searched for but did not find Rusties is through a “Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz” checklist submitted with 0 Rusties reported. Through these checklists, we gain a sense of where these birds are not.
- The Blitz protocol encourages birders to submit additional information we’re collecting on Rusties; it prompts birders to indicate numbers of males and females, habitat type, etc.
- Evaluating reports submitted under the Blitz protocol allows us to evaluate the success of our outreach efforts.
Please visit our Areas of Interest FAQ page for answer to these and other questions.