Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2013-95

Common name:

Rusty Blackbird

Scientific name: Euphagus carolinus
Date: 12/14/13
Time: ~4:50-5:10 pm
Length of time observed: ~15 minutes
Number: Two
Age: Unknown
Sex: Thought to be 1 male, 1 female
Location: Mountain Valley Trout Farm (private property); listed as Smithfield Fish Hatchery in eBird
County: Cache
Latilong: NA
Elevation: 4450 feet
Distance to bird: 10-30 meters
Optical equipment: Leica 8x50 binoculars, Canon 60D DSLR with 100-400 mm lens
Weather: Cold, overcast, inversion. 20-25 degrees F, about 2" snow on the ground.
Light Conditions: No direct light. Sky almost completely overcast, with very poor lighting.
Description:        Size of bird: Estimated at 8-9 inches in the field.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Blackbird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Blackish, with rufous on breast (see details and photos)
(Description:)            Bill Type: Blackbird, but relatively longer and more pointed than Red-winged Blackbird.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Two blackbirds, about 8-9 inches in size. Appeared similar to Brewer's Blackbird in terms of overall coloration, size, and shape. Eyecolor of both birds was yellowish-whitish. Both birds had dark wings, back, and lower breast and underparts; the exact color was difficult to determine but seemed to be a dark, dark, gray or almost black. Both birds had a pale brown face, contrasting with a darker brown crown, blackish lores, and a dark ear patch; this blackish area also extended a little above the yellow-whitish eye, and more so below the eye. Both birds had a brownish breast; one bird had grayish flanks, and grayish edging on the upper breast feathers; this bird (possibly a female) had a grayish stripe above the eye, and a pale throat, creating a more contrasty pattern than on the darker bird, which was may have been a male. The darker bird had a similar facial pattern but it is more difficult to see in the photos. The darker bird has pale edging its flanks.!
Both birds had brownish on the upper back, although it appeared more muted on the possible female, and richer in color on the possible male.

Legs dark, tail appeared basically square-cut; blackish above and below, including undertail coverts, which have paler edging on both birds. Bill relatively pointed and acute for a blackbird.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: Sat in the interior of large woody shrubs, feathers puffed out. Flew once to the edge of the "fish runways" to feed.
Habitat: Typical Rusty Blackbird habitat in the sense that the fish runways were choked with algae, and the birds appeared to be interested in foraging on the algal mat.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Eliminated Brewer's Blackbird on basis of overall plumage differences - both birds had blackish eyestripe/earpatch, contrasting with dark cap, paler face, paler breast with rufous tones, and whitish-yellow eyes. Both birds had rufous or brown tones in the upper back, which are not found in Brewer's Blackbird. Rufous tones seemed apparent on the Rusty Blackbirds in the field but are less evident in the photos. Both birds also had pale edging on their undertail coverts, which I don't think Brewer's Blackbird has. Eliminated Red-winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbirds on basis on plumage differences - both species have more conical bills and very different plumages. Eliminated Brown-headed Cowbird on basis of overall plumage differences (black with brown hood or drab brown) and strongly conical bill. Eliminated both Great-tailed Grackle and Common Grackle on differences in size (both are much larger, 12-17"), overall coloration, and differences in tail shape-both grackle sp. have long, wedge-shaped tails.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen Rusty Blackbirds in Michigan (at least once) and New York (at least 10 times); have seen thousands of Brewer's Blackbirds. Significant experience with Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.
References consulted: Consulted large Sibley, National Geographic Complete Birds of North America on 12/15/13 to check on age/sex differences between Rusty Blackbird, and comparisons to Brewer's Blackbird.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Craig R. Fosdick
Observer's address: 143 Preston Ave Apt 2, Logan, Utah, 84321
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None on date of initial sighting. Others independently identified the birds on 12/15/13.
Date prepared: 12/15/13
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Discovered on the Logan Christmas Bird Count. These two birds were present (at least) 12/14-15/2013. eBird checklist for 12/14/13: ; eBird checklist for 12/15/13: