Contest to raise awareness for Rusty Blackbird conservation
Michigan Audubon is sponsoring a contest to motivate volunteers to monitor a rapidly declining, yet poorly understood Michigan bird species, Rusty Blackbirds. Rusty Blackbirds, or “Rusties,” have endured a population decline more severe than that of any other once-common landbird. Michigan is an important migratory stopover for Rusties during their northward, Canada-bound journey in the spring, but scientists have yet to find specific stopover hotspots that can be protected to ensure this species has safe and productive refueling stations. Michigan Audubon hopes that Michigan birders will take part in a continent-wide effort to monitor Rusties and to sweeten the deal they’re offering rewards—the top birder will receive a pair of binoculars valued at $400.
The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz (or “the Blitz”) is a continent-wide effort to engage citizen scientists in finding and counting these elusive blackbirds with the ultimate goal of creating well-informed conservation guidelines. This is a three-year program that began in 2014 and includes partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, eBird, and many other state, federal, and local partners. In 2014, 4,750 birders participated in the Blitz and researchers used those observations to learn about potential migratory hotspots, habitat use, and potential migratory pathways.
The 2015 Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz runs from March 1 to June 15 and it challenges birders from Alabama to Alberta to search for Rusties in their typical habitats: flooded forests, agricultural fields, and wetlands. Anyone can participate in the Blitz; just visit www.rustyblackbird.org/outreach/migration-blitz/ to learn how to identify Rusty Blackbirds, where to look, and how to submit your observations.
Volunteer citizen science efforts like the Blitz offer great opportunities for the public to significantly contribute to bird conservation in Michigan. To help kick off Michigan’s Blitz, Michigan Audubon is sponsoring a contest with several Rusty Blackbird-themed prizes and one grand prize: a pair of Atlas Optics Intrepid Binoculars. To sign up for the contest or to learn more about Michigan’s Blitz, email Rachelle Roake at RRoake@michiganaudubon.org. Michigan Audubon hopes to engage hundreds of birders across the state to Blitz for Blackbirds this spring!