Photo: Rob Curtis/Vireo

Rusty Blackbird

Euphagus carolinus

Birders might say that this blackbird is rusty because it spends so much time in the water. In migration and winter it is usually in swampy places, wading in very shallow water at the edges of wooded streams. In summer it retires to northern spruce bogs; no other blackbird has such a northerly breeding distribution. The name "Rusty" applies to the colors of fall birds, but it could also describe the rusty-hinge sound of the creaking song.
Conservation status Although its remote breeding range and swampy winter habitat make it difficult to census, some scientists believe that the total population of this species may have declined by more than 80 percent in recent decades.
Family Blackbirds and Orioles
Habitat River groves, wooded swamps; muskeg in summer. Breeds in the muskeg region, in wet northern coniferous forest with many lakes and bogs. During migration and winter, favors areas with trees near water, as in wooded swamps and riverside forest; will also forage in open fields and cattle feedlots with other blackbirds.
Birders might say that this blackbird is rusty because it spends so much time in the water. In migration and winter it is usually in swampy places, wading in very shallow water at the edges of wooded streams. In summer it retires to northern spruce bogs; no other blackbird has such a northerly breeding distribution. The name "Rusty" applies to the colors of fall birds, but it could also describe the rusty-hinge sound of the creaking song.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female, breeding
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • adult female, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by walking on wet ground or wading in shallow water. May be solitary or in flocks. May join flocks of other blackbirds and feed with them in dry fields.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Pale blue-green, spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, probably about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-14 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-14 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Majority of annual diet is insects, including many aquatic insects such as caddisflies, mayflies, dragonflies, and water beetles, plus land insects such as grasshoppers and others. Also eats snails, crustaceans, small fish, small salamanders. Eats many seeds and waste grain, especially in winter, also a few berries.


Nesting

Sometimes nests in small, loose colonies, but more typically in isolated pairs. Male gives harsh, grating song in spring, to defend nesting territory or to attract a mate. Nest site is in dense cover, usually in conifer or in shrubs above the water; placed very low, typically only a few feet above water or ground, but can be up to 20' high in coniferous tree. Nest (built by female) is a bulky open cup of twigs and grass, often with foundation of Usnea lichens, the inner bowl shaped of mudlike decaying plant material from the forest floor; lined with fine grass.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Strays appear in the West and Southwest most often in late fall.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Strays appear in the West and Southwest most often in late fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Like the squeaks of a rusty gate; call note a sharp check.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Blackbirds and Orioles Perching Birds

Rusty Blackbird

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds