Friday, March 14, 2014

Rusty Blackbird Migration Blitz

Rusty Blackbird Migration Blitz
It is estimated that the global population of Rusty Blackbirds has declined by an astounding 85-95% since the mid 1990s.  Reasons for this decline are somewhat unclear and very little is known about the habitat requirements of this species during migration.  In an effort to learn more about their migration ecology, a multi-state effort is underway to report sightings of Rusty Blackbirds this spring.  This citizen science project is called the Rusty Blackbird Migration Blitz and represents a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.  This is a great opportunity for birders to directly contribute to the conservation of an imperiled species.
Getting involved in the study is rather straight forward.  Birders can go out, look for Rusties anywhere they like, and report their sightings (or lack thereof) to eBird under the "Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz" survey type.  Remember that reporting an effort that didn’t turn up any Rusties is just as important as reports with sightings.  For birders who'd like a bit more guidance, or for anyone who is willing to collect additional information that will be highly valuable to our efforts, there is an optional Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz protocol document. This document ( details how to record and report field observations and indicates the "extras" that birders can do to help our effort (take photos, record information about local habitat, etc).   Additional information on Rusty Blackbirds and the Migration Blitz can be found through this link (  The target dates for the count in Massachusetts are between March 15-April.  Please pass this along to anyone you think is interested and post information on social media outletsThere have been a lot of reports already generated from the southern states, and let's get Massachusetts well represented on the map in reporting migrating Rusty Blackbirds.  I am the Migration Blitz state coordinator for Massachusetts, so please feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions related to the survey.
Happy birding!  Drew
Andrew Vitz
State Ornithologist
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230
West Boylston, MA 01583
Tel: 508-389-6394; Fax:508-389-7890

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