4-B-2019 Rusty Blackbird

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
one observed that appeared to be a non-breeding male
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
available upon request
OTHER OBSERVERS
I first observed the bird on 2/9/19. To my knowledge, and according to eBird.org, no one else reported observing the same bird in that area on 2/9/19.

On the following days, three other people reported in eBird.org that they had also seen a Rusty Blackbird at the same location I had observed it. According to eBird, the names of the other three observers are Pat Weber, Ken Harris and Sarah Harris.
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Hagerman Wildlife Management Area in Gooding County, Idaho. I observed it in the eastern-most fish breeding raceway at the Idaho Fish and Game Hagerman Fish Hatchery.
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
It was in a cement fish breeding raceway with about an inch of standing water in it. It was in a small flock with Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
I observed the group of blackbirds first with the naked eye. The flock was about 20 yards away from me. I noticed that there was one that stood out because it was rusty-brown and had a mottled pattern to it. I then observed it using 8 X 42 binoculars. I took photos of the bird using Nikon digital SLR camera with a 70-300mm zoom lens.

The weather was about 25 degrees, overcast skies with winds of about 5-10 mph.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, during the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, later the same day
Yes, another day after the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
I consulted images of blackbirds using Merlin Bird ID and allaboutbirds.com. I also consulted National Geographic Birds of North America.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
I had seen Rusty Blackbirds four months ago (September 2018) while on a trip to Alaska, so I was generally familiar with their appearance. The bird I saw here was most noticeable because of the light eyebrow stripe. I also observed that it had black wings and rusty-brown coloring on its head, breast and cape. It had a bright yellow eye. It was more plump in appearance than the nearby Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds, and it was of a slightly longer length than the other nearby blackbirds.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
The bird was feeding in the shallow water and mud of a mostly-empty concrete fish breeding raceway. It was in a group of about ten to twelve other blackbirds. All the birds were pecking food from just below the surface of the shallow water.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I positively identified the bird upon reviewing my photos later that same evening. The clincher in identifying it for me was the light eyebrow stripe along with the yellow eye and the rusty coloring of its upper body against the black wings.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
I thought perhaps this bird could have been a female of another more common blackbird species. Using allaboutbirds.com and google.com, I viewed many images of Rusty, Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds to eliminate both the Red-winged and Brewer's.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I had observed Rusty Blackbirds four months prior on a trip to Alaska in September 2018, so I am generally familiar with their appearance.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
I would rate myself as an intermediate birder. I have been avidly birding for about two years. I have been recording my observations weekly, or sometimes several times per day, and inputting those observations into eBird.org.

To date my life list is 218 birds. I have observed and recorded birds in 16 different states with 147 species observed within Idaho which is my state of residence. My next highest states for species observations are Nevada--105; Utah--76 and Oregon--73.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
Photo
SUPPORTING IMAGES

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Dave Trochlell
Accept

Without a doubt this was a female Rusty Blackbird.

Darren Clark
Accept

Photographs are diagnostic.

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Procedurally, I'm somewhat reluctant to accept a record for which the observer provides no name (but apparently that information is available to the committee). Given that this record is corroborated by many additional reports and photographs in eBird, I wouldn't vote against it in this case.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Well described and diagnostic pics

Doug Ward
Accept

Combination of good report listing key field marks for this species, observation in direct comparison with Red-winged (Agelalus phoeniceus) and Brewer’s Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus), and diagnostic photos make this a fairly easy “accept”.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

photo and description are convincing

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Photos confirm the identification of Rusty Blackbird