Rusty Blackbird – Accepted

1. 16 Nov 1972


Eureka HUM



2. 03 Nov 1973


Kelso SBE



3. 04 Nov 1973


Furnace Creek Ranch INY



4-5. 05–12 Jan 1974

male female

vic. Solvang SBA










Figure 313. California records of the Rusty Blackbird were reviewed for a short period in the 1970s. During that time, and in the ensuing years, the species was found to occur in the state very rarely, but regularly, during late fall and, to a lesser extent, winter. More recently, however, the species’ rate of detection has dropped to below four records per year, prompting the CBRC to re-initiate review of this species starting in 2006. This adult female was photographed on 24 January 2003, during its fourth winter at a parking lot in Goleta, Santa Barbara County (Peter A. Gaede).



Figure 442. The Rusty Blackbird occurs in California mainly as a very rare late fall and winter vagrant. The CBRC briefly reviewed its records during the 1970s, and a declining rate of detection in California led to the CBRC’s decision in 2006 to reinstate review. This female was photographed during December 1987 in Malibu, Los Angeles County (Herbert Clarke).







Rusty Blackbird

RUSTY BLACKBIRD Euphagus carolinus (Müller, 1776)

Accepted: 5 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: records from 1972 through 1974 and 2006 to present1

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Large color image: see Figures

This blackbird’s breeding range reaches across subarctic Alaska and Canada, with a southern limit that extends from southwestern Alaska and southern British Columbia east to northern New York and northern Maine (formerly to western Massachusetts and central Maine). The wintering grounds extend along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod south to northern Florida and westward to central Nebraska and eastern Texas. The species winters casually west to the Pacific coast and north to southern Canada. Transients occur casually on islands of the Bering Sea and in northern Baja California, Sonora, southern Texas, and southern Florida. The species is accidental in Siberia and Greenland.

California’s first Rusty Blackbird was a first-winter female collected on 15 December 1895 in Drytown, Amador County (CAS 50236; specimen examined by P. Pyle; originally reported as a male by Mailliard 1904). The species is suffering serious population declines (Niven et al. 2004), although its range is believed to be expanding in British Columbia (Campbell et al. 2001). Reports from California—most during fall and winter, with a handful in spring—averaged approximately five per year from 1989 to 2003, but the rate declined through this period, and in January 2006 the Committee voted to place this species back on the review list after a three-decade hiatus.

In California, most Rusty Blackbirds are found between 20 October and the end of November (see McCaskie 1971a). Early fall vagrants were along the northern coast at Fairhaven, Humboldt County, 2 October 1985 (Harris 1996) and Pt. Reyes, Marin County, 7 October 1988 (AB 43:165). A 2 October 1963 record from Orange County (McCaskie 1971a) was omitted by Hamilton and Willick (1996) because of a lack of supporting details, and a 30 August 1996 report from Humboldt County (Harris 2006) is considered dubious. The earliest fall vagrant from the state’s southern half was present 11–17 October 1997 at Furnace Creek Ranch, Inyo County (FN 52:129). See also Appendix H.

Most records from northern California are coastal, but to the south this species often turns up in desert areas of Inyo, eastern Kern, and eastern San Bernardino Counties. Many other parts of the state also claim records, including the Modoc Plateau, Sacramento Valley, lower Colorado River Valley, and most Channel Islands. Wintering birds generally depart by March. An individual that lingered until 8 April 1984 near Orick, Humboldt County, provided the latest date for a Rusty Blackbird known to have wintered in the state (Harris 2006).

Spring vagrants have been recorded between late March and late April. Five have been found in desert areas of Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, including California’s latest, a bird present 27–28 April 1976 in Kelso, San Bernardino County (Garrett and Dunn 1981). Far to the north, a spring vagrant was recorded on 4 April 1999 at Honey Lake, Lassen County (NAB 53:327). On the coast, one was found on 12 April 1977 in Goleta, Santa Barbara County (Lehman 1994), and three have been recorded on Southeast Farallon Island between 15 and 22 April (Richardson et al. 2003).

1Off the review list 1974–2005