Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-08

Common name:

Rusty Blackbird

Scientific name: Euphagus carolinus
Date: 1/23/2010
Time: 10:45
Length of time observed: 6 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Pariette Wetlands - outlet stream from Redhead Pond
County: Uintah
Latilong: 40.0302593 109.7556978
Elevation: 4650
Distance to bird: 3-4 meters
Optical equipment: Swarovski 10X42 binoculars
Weather: Mostly clear, cold (25 degrees F), very little wind
Light Conditions: Bright sun
Description:        Size of bird: Blackbird size - 9-10 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Blackbird shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark colors with some highlights
(Description:)            Bill Type: Long, slender bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The bird was the basic shape of other blackbirds and most similar to the Brewer's Blackbirds in appearance. The bill was long and slender and dark in color. The iris was bright yellow. The head and upper body were lighter than the rest of the body but was still dark. Two lighter patches were noticeable on the head. One extended along the eyebrow toward the back of the head and the other patch extended from the end of the bill along the bottom edge of the ear patch. The patches were mottled brown/black and lighter than much of the rest of the head and neck. The neck and upper body had dark feathers that had the appearance of being worn because of the ligher edges along the trailing edge of the small feathers. The light edges on these feathers were brownish in color and not an obvious rust color. However, the tertiary feathers had noticeable rusty edges but the rest of the wing was mostly black. The tail was also black.

Behavior was also distinctive. It was secretive and stayed near the ground the entire time it was observed. When spooked it disappeared into the thickest portion of the tamarisk bush instead of perching near the top or flying away. It would also dart into the base of the thick cattails and reeds when spooked.
Song or call & method of delivery: No call heard.
Behavior: Secretive. The bird was observed foraging along the margins of the small area of open water in the stream. It would walk along the shallow water and in the mud. Often darted into cattails and reeds along the edge of stream then returned. The last time it quickly flew into a thick patch of tamarisk and disappeared near the bottom.
Habitat: The habitat is a small stream with cattails and reeds along the edges. A few patches of thick tamarisk are also in the area. The stream is nearly completely frozen with only small areas open. These areas are where the bird was foraging. The border of the stream is marshy with cattails and reeds. The adjacent uplands have a mix of tamarisk and greasewood.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Brewer's Blackbirds - The bird was similar in size and basic color to the Brewer's Blackbird but did have some slight differences. The detailed color pattern was similar to a female Brewer's Blackbird but the feathers were black not brown in color. The iris was obviously bright yellow ruling out a female Brewer's Blackbird. I have seen Brewer's Blackbirds in the late fall that were not completely black but had a lighter head pattern. I ruled this variant of Brewer's Blackbird out by the presence of the rusty tips on the upper body feathers and especially the tertiary feathers. The tertiary feathers of the bird have obvious rust colored on the trailing edge. The bird was not obviously iridescent either. I had bright sun to view the bird and did not notice the typical iridescent pattern easily seen on Brewer's Blackbirds.

The behavior and habitat use of this bird was noticeably different than other blackbird species. It stayed on or near the ground the entire time it was observed. It never perched at the top of the shrubs or trees present like other blackbirds often do. It was very secretive in behavior.

Other Blackbirds (Red-winged, Yellow-headed) and Brown-headed Cowbird - The species were ruled out by the presence of the bright yellow iris, bill shape (cowbird), and basic feather pattern.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is the first time I have observed a Rusty Blackbird. I have 30+ years experience with the other species of blackbird with extensive field work.
References consulted: Bird of North America account, Field Guides (Sibley, Kaufman, National Geographic)
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Brian Maxfield
Observer's address: HC 65 Box 81 Altonah, Utah 84002
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None.
Date prepared: 1/26/2010
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: This bird was seen briefly one previous time in the same location by this observer but time did not permit a close observation.