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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Rusty Blackbird -- Euphagus carolinus

RANGE: Breeds from western and north-central Alaska and northern Yukon to southern Keewatin, northern Quebec and central Labrador south to southwestern and south-coastal Alaska, central interior British Columbia, central Manitoba, northern New England, and northeastern New York. Winters from south-coastal Alaska and southeastern British Columbia to southern Ontario and southern New England south to Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida, and west to central Colorado.

STATUS: Fairly common.

HABITAT: Almost always found near water, breeding in boggy spruce woods, along swampy wooded shores of lakes, streams, tree-bordered marshes, beaver ponds, and swamps; and on wooded islands in lakes. Rarely occurs in fields with other blackbirds. In winter, does not stay so close to water, occurring also in open woodland, scrub, pastures, weedy gardens, and cultivated land.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wooded wetlands during the breeding season.

NEST: Nests in dense growths of evergreens, especially second-growth spruce or balsam, 2 to 20 feet, but typically less than 10 feet above the ground. Also uses dead trees or clumps of deciduous bushes such as buttonbush or sweetgale along streamsides for nesting.

FOOD: Forages by gleaning insects, weed seeds, waste grain, and wild fruit from the ground in pastures, fields, or grassy edges of wetlands, or by wading in shallow water.

REFERENCES: Beal 1900, Bent 1958, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Kaufman in Farrand 1983c, Kennard 1920.

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