Unlike most North American blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolensis) have shown steep population declines. Declines of approximately 90% are indicated for three recent decades from the Breeding Bird Survey, Christmas Bird Counts, and Quebec Checklist Program. Analyses of abundance classifications in bird distribution books and annotated checklists reveal an overlooked but long-term decline dating back to at least the early part of this century. Rusty Blackbirds were described as very common to abundant in 5656 of the pre-192O published accounts, 19% of the 1921-1950 accounts, and only 7% of the post-1950 accounts. Rusty Blackbirds were described as uncommon in none of the pre-1950 accounts, 18% of the 1951-1980 accounts, and 43% of the post-1980 accounts. A similar pattern was found for analyses based on local checklists. Destruction of wooded wetlands on wintering grounds, acid precipitation, and the conversion of boreal forest wetlands could have contributed to these declines. Systematic analysis of regional guides and checklists provides a valuable tool for examining large-scale and long-term population changes in birds.
Additional publication details
On the decline of the Rusty Blackbird and the use of ornithological literature to document long-term population trends