Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2004-

Common name:

Rusty Blackbird

Scientific name: Euphagus carolinus
Date: Feb. 12, 2004
Time: 10:30 A.M.
Length of time observed: 10-15 minutes of actual observation time; we were there looking for it in between actual observations.
Number: one
Age: Adult
Sex: female
Location: Riverdale (south of Ogden); parkway along the west side of the Weber River
County: Weber
Elevation: 4400'
Distance to bird: 25-75 Yards
Optical equipment: Six pairs of binoculars from 8x to 10x and two Swarovski spotting scopes.
Weather: Clear and cold (plus or minus 20 degrees F).
Light Conditions: Excellent. Clear with no cloud cover.
Detailed description of bird: This bird appeared dark from a distance and slightly more slender than the robins with which it shared the trees. It was also about the same size as the robins. When observed through the binoculars there was a distinct difference in the back color--towards the rump it was grayish. As you looked at the back it was more of brownish-rust color. The crown was about the same color as the back. The supercilium and throat were distinctly lighter (tan) than the cheek which was much darker in color. The most distinguishing fieldmark for me, anyway, was the yellow iris. The beak was dark and slender, like a Brewer's Blackbird. The belly was a soft brownish tan and slightly lighter in color than the back. The wings were dark with no wing bars. (Refer to Milton Moody's photo). The tail was fairly long (similar to Brewer's Blackbird) and dark with no markings.
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard
Behavior: Actively foraging on the fruit of Russian olive trees with small flock of robins. Flew from tree to tree and also spent some time along a feeder stream to the river.
Habitat: Riparian woods. Tall cottonwood trees, many Russian Olive trees and fairly thick shubbery along the Weber river and feeder stream.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Adult female Brewer's Blackbird had a dark eye--this bird had a yellow one.
Adult female Brewer's Blackbird lacks the strong facial pattern that this bird had.
The female Gt. Tailed Grackle has a yellow iris but is noticeably larger and overall more gray in color. Plus the bill is longer in the grackle.
The habitat seemed to be more favorable to a Rusty Blackbird which is usually found in boreal forests. Brewer's Blackbirds and Gt.tailed Grackles tend (in my experience, at least) to favor more mesic, residential and agricultural surroundings.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
None with this species. Much experience with
grackles and other blackbirds and robins with which it may be confused.
References consulted: Kaufman's "Birds of North America" and Sibley's "Field Guide to Birds".
Description from:  
Observer: Merrill Webb
Observer's address: 1063 East 400 North, Orem, Utah 84097
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Glen Barlow, Bill Fenimore, Milton Moody, Bryan Shirley, Dennis Shirley
Date prepared: February 12, 2004   (General Public)
Additional material: Milton Moody photo
Additional comments: This bird resembled the one in fall plumage pictured in Kaufman, page 331 more than the one pictured in Sibley's guide.