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In the fall, Rusty Blackbirds get new feathers with reddish-gold highlights that have a unique and subtle beauty. Their complex little song might sound like a door hinge that needs some grease. Though once common, Rusty Blackbirds have lost over 90 percent of their population since 1966 – one of the steepest declines of any North American bird species.
The Rusty Blackbird’s Unique Beauty
Written by Conor Gearin
This is BirdNote.
[Rusty Blackbird song]
While it might sound like a door hinge that needs some grease, this is the song of the Rusty Blackbird. The bird’s name evokes both its reddish-brown feather highlights and its creaky, complex little song.
[Rusty Blackbird calls]
These birds aren’t rusty year-round. In the fall, their new feathers come in with reddish-gold highlights that have a unique and subtle beauty. As winter progresses, the rusty edges wear away, leaving the birds with a solid grayish-blue plumage for the summer breeding season in Canada and Alaska.
Though once common, Rusty Blackbirds have lost over 90 percent of their population since 1966 – one of the steepest declines of any North American bird species. The challenges they face include climate change drying up their breeding habitats in the boreal forests and habitat loss in the swamps of the southern U.S. where they spend the winter. They’ve also likely been harmed by a toxin called methylmercury produced by burning coal that falls as poisonous rain in the boreal forests.
By addressing climate change, preserving wetlands, and preventing pollution, we can help these unique blackbirds and ourselves.
[Rusty Blackbird song]
For BirdNote, I’m Ariana Remmel.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Editor: Jazzi Johnson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Rusty Blackbird ML 12458 recorded by Robert C. Stein.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote December 2022
Narrator: Ariana Remmel
ID# RUBL-02-2022-12-21 RUBL-02