Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus
) populations have declined perhaps 95% in the recent past, creating legitimate concern that the species may become endangered. During the nonbreeding period the species occurs predominantly in southern U.S. forested wetland habitats, with concentrations in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and in the southeastern Coastal Plain of the Carolinas and Georgia. Both these areas have experienced substantial historic conversion of forested wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests to other land uses. We review available information on the status of forested wetlands in the southern U.S. and estimate the proportion of potential Rusty Blackbird habitat that may have been lost. Substantial areas formerly covered in forested wetlands in the region are today devoted to land uses incompatible with the bird’s known habitat. Especially in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, an area of intensive agriculture, land use may change annually with commodity price fl uctuations and can affect existing forest lands. In recent years, in response to changing economic conditions, federal Wetland Reserve and Conservation Reserve Programs have converted marginal agricultural lands back to forest lands and wetlands. These conversions, as well as current interest in afforestation and forest restoration for purposes of carbon sequestration, suggest a future increase in Rusty Blackbird nonbreeding habitat.
Christmas Bird Count
Mississippi alluvial valley
southeastern coastal plain
Hamel, P., D. DeSteven, T. Leininger, and R. Wilson. 2009. Historical trends in rusty blackbird nonbreeding habitat in forested wetlands. In: T. Rich, C. Arizmendi, D. Demarest, and C. Thompson, eds., Tundra to Tropics: Connecting Birds, Habitats and People. Proceedings of the 4th International Partners in Flight Conference, McAllen, Texas, 13-16 Feb 2008. p. 341-353.