Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Rusty Blackbird (Eophagus carolinus)

Rusty Blackbird
(Artwork - 124)
Rusty Blackbird (Eophagus carolinus)

This is the second of four species of blackbird I placed on one painting as a series of four vignettes (I call such paintings ďcompositesĒ) I did of blackbirds native to my region, Ontario. I sent the first one last month, the Red-winged Blackbird.

The Rusty Blackbird is far less well-known than the Red-winged Blackbird, and with good reason. It tends to nest in uninhabited boreal forests, and therefore is far less likely to be seen in urban areas, and while it has a wide breeding range, all the way from Alaska in the northwest to Newfoundland and Labrador, in the east, it does not nest south of the relatively sparsely inhabited bogs, muskeg and spruce forests of the north. And also, for reasons no one quite understands, or at least Iíve seen no plausible explanation, the Rusty Blackbird is increasingly rare, with a huge decline in numbers from my youth, when we saw many more each spring and fall and they were quite common in winter in the eastern U.S. Iíve seen estimates of up to a 90% decline in living memory. (See: Understanding Declines in the Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus Carolinus): An Indicator of Wooded Wetland Health).

Itís true that blackbirds are heavily persecuted and culled, but grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, cowbirds all survive and remain abundant, and while the Rusty is more selective than they are in its habitat needs, nevertheless viable habitat, especially breeding habitat, seems to remain widespread.

Rusty Blackbirds are migratory, and they spend the winter throughout most of the eastern continental U.S., from Wisconsin to Maine and south to the Gulf of Mexico, with almost no overlap between breeding and wintering ranges. In winter they may associate with other blackbirds, and with starlings. Their preferred habitat features the combination of trees and water, thus bogs and beaver ponds and wooded swamps are favoured.

Their plumage is quite variable. I have shown, at the top and in behind, an adult male in spring breeding plumage, which is mostly a dull black. Some of the feathers, especially of the upper breast and back, show rust-coloured tips, to varying degrees. In front of that bird is an immature male in fall plumage, with broad, rusty tips to much of the plumage. Below is the grey female in breeding plumage. In all plumages they normally have pale yellow irises to the eyes. Males are a little larger than females.

The painting is in acrylics, on compressed hardboard. 

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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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