As its common name suggests, the rusty blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is best distinguished by the rusty red-brown edges and tips to its feathers (2) (3). An otherwise fairly indistinctive, medium-sized bird with a slender bill, the rusty blackbird is one of the least well known of the North American blackbirds (3).
The distinctive rusty colouration of this species is unique to the winter plumage, where it is particularly noticeable on the upperparts of the body (2) (3). During the winter, the male rusty blackbird is characterised by the rusty edges to the tertials, and by its rusty brown crown, nape and back. The rest of the upperparts are black, while the cheeks, throat, breast and sides are lighter brown or buff (3). The male also has a tawny-coloured stripe above the eye (2). The female rusty blackbird is similar to the male, but with a conspicuous paler buff line above the eye (3).
In breeding plumage, the rusty colouring of this blackbird becomes less apparent, with the male becoming generally uniform dark black above (2) (3), often with a shiny blue-green to greenish gloss (3). The female is generally an unassuming grey-brown (2), although darker above, also with a slight blue-green gloss (3).
Both the male and female rusty blackbird possess striking yellow eyes and a long, square-tipped tail (4). The juvenile rusty blackbird resembles the adult, but is typically much browner and has a paler line above the eye (2) (4). The eye of the juvenile bird is initially brown, becoming yellow in its first autumn (3).
The male rusty blackbird has a squeaky, bubbling song (2) (4), comprising up to three warbled notes ending in a higher, rising note, which is aptly likened to a rusty gate creaking. The call of the rusty blackbird is usually a harsh ‘chek’ (2).
- Length: 21 - 25 cm (2)
- Wingspan: 37 cm (2)
- 47 - 80 g (2)