Deliberate Poisoning and Shooting of Rusty Blackbird and Tamaulipas Crow to be Limited Following Conservation Concern for Species

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, 202-234-7181 ext. 212

Rusty Blackbird. Photo: Greg Lavaty

Rusty Blackbird. Photo: Greg Lavaty

Following comments by American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced that the Rusty Blackbird and the Tamaulipas Crow can now only be deliberately killed as a nuisance species following approval and issuance of a specific permit.

“In our comments, we cited a variety of evidence that demonstrated that the Rusty Blackbird has suffered a stunning population decline, losing perhaps 90 percent of its numbers, over the last 200 years. FWS has now issued final regulations that reflect that This is a real victory for the conservation of the species,” said Dr. Moira McKernan, Director of the Birds Pesticide Program for ABC.

In addition, ABC has sent a letter to the EPA asking that Rusty Blackbirds be taken off their list of target birds for the pesticide Avitrol.

A standing depredation order is a regulation that allows the blanket killing or “take” of species of birds, at specific locations, and for specific purposes without the need for individual depredation permits on each occasion. The depredation order for blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, crows, and magpies allows take when individuals are "found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance."

The Rusty Blackbird breeds across northern North America from Alaska to eastern Canada, farther north than any other blackbird species. It nests near streams, bogs, muskeg swamps, and beaver ponds, generally in remote areas. It winters in flocks in the southeastern and Midwestern U.S. Data from 90 Breeding Bird Survey routes indicate it has declined over 10% annually from 1966 to 2001. Recent survey work in the Northwest Territories detected only a few birds in areas where it was common 50 years ago. The causes of its decline are unknown but speculation points to poisoning due to spraying of blackbird roosts where the Rusty roosts with other blackbird species during the winter. Also, destruction and degradation of wetlands are a threat to the species, particularly of swamp and bottomland forests in the wintering range.

The Tamaulipas Crow was also removed from the FWS depredation order because of its very limited distribution in the United States as well as its apparent rapid decline in numbers. The Tamaulipas Crow is a little known, small glossy crow, all black, including bill and feet. It is a sociable bird often forming large flocks, moving together in close groups. It nests low in shrubs and native tree species like the mesquite and feeds on a great variety of items, including seeds, grains, fruits, meat, carrion, and insects. Unknown north of the U.S.-Mexico border before the 1960s, it has in recent years become a regular visitor to southern Texas.

This new FWS regulation was effective on January 3, 2011.


American Bird Conservancy conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, protecting and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. For more information, visit,


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