Michigan Audubon is Blitzing for declining Rusty Blackbirds

March 5, 2015
Kristin Phillips
Comments Off on Michigan Audubon is Blitzing for declining Rusty Blackbirds

Rusty Blackbird Blitz Contest

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Rusty Blackbirds, or “Rusties,” have endured a population decline more severe than that of any other once-common landbird. Michigan is an important migratory stopover for Rusties during their northward, Canada-bound journey in the spring, but scientists have yet to find specific stopover hotspots that can be protected to ensure this species has safe and productive refueling stations.

We hope Michigan birders will take part in the citizen science project to monitor Rusty Blackbirds by joining our Rusty Blackbird Blitz contest. Go birding, collect data, and win prizes.

The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz (or “the Blitz”) is a continent-wide effort to engage citizen scientists in finding and counting these elusive blackbirds with the ultimate goal of creating well-informed conservation guidelines. This is a three-year program that began in 2014 and includes partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, eBird, and many other state, federal, and local partners. In 2014, 4,750 birders participated in the Blitz and researchers used those observations to learn about potential migratory hotspots, habitat use, and potential migratory pathways.

Rusty Blackbird by Craig Fritz

Based on the results of the 2014 Blitz, the coordinators have identified Areas of Interest (AOI) that supported large flocks of Rusties during last spring’s migration. In 2015, birders can help learn more about consistency in habitat use by revisiting these AOI. Click on the markers below to find out where Michigan’s AOI are located (coordinates are approximate). A few AOI are on private property, so please be respectful and obtain appropriate permissions if you want to bird on private property. Whoever submits the most checklists at an AOI during the Blitz will receive a prize, but you must sign up for our contest below to win!

The 2015 Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz runs from 1 March and 15 June and it challenges birders from Alabama to Alberta to search for Rusties in their typical habitats: flooded forests, agricultural fields, and wetlands. Anyone can participate in the Blitz; just go birding! look and listen for these “squeaky-hinge” birds and report your sightings on eBird (if you do not use eBird but still want to participate, please contact Rachelle at rroake@michiganaudubon.org).

For more information on identifying Rusties, finding Rusty habitat, and how to submit your sightings, please visit www.rustyblackbird.org.

Rusty Blackbird Blitz Contest

Grand Prize awarded for most checklists submitted during the Blitz:

A pair of Atlas Optics Intrepid ED 7×36 binoculars from Eagle Optics Eagle Optics Logo

1 Rusty Blackbird artwork will be awarded to each of the following categories:

  • The most checklists submitted at an Area of Interest.
  • The most total Rusty Blackbirds reported throughout the contest period.
  • The most hours spent surveying with Rusty Blackbirds as the target.

Sign Up Below

To enter the contest, please fill out the brief sign up form below. The contest starts March 1st and ends May 10th. Winners will be announced at the Tawas Point Birding Festival, but you do not need to be present to win. Good luck!

Social Media Campaign

RBbB-01Help us raise awareness for the Blitz but using the hashtag #Rustyblackbird when you share photos, sightings, and discussions about Rusties on social media. We want to hear how your Blitz is going! Share your photos and sightings with us on
FacebookTwitter and Twitter Facebook and don’t forget to tag us!