Besides the Rusty, Another Endangered Species to Check

I’m sure you’ve recently seen postings about the annual Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz. The Blitz encourages people to count Rusty Blackbirds which are in severe decline nationwide. Even a recording of zero is okay as it shows that people are looking and not just missing them. I plan to go out several times this spring, starting this weekend, and look for Rusty Blackbirds in the appropriate habitat.

But I encourage you to look for a another migrating species this spring. If you remember back in December I posted about endangered species in Indiana. On the IUCN list of VULNERABLE SPECIES were three species. One was the Rusty Blackbird.  Another is a summer resident, the Cerulean Warbler, which I’ll discuss later this spring.

And the one that is migrating through right now is the Horned Grebe. I encourage you to get out and actively look for Horned Grebes just as much as Rusty Blackbirds because it’s also in a state of severe decline.

HOGR LL 052612
I found this very late Horned Grebe when I lived in Illinois. Most May reports are from early May and all the later ones are along Lake Michigan. And it was a nice, hot day – here are my eBird comments – 93F, winds – S at 15-20, partly cloudy. I also had a Franklin’s Gull that day. LaSalle Lake – 5/26/12

I’m not sure why the Horned Grebe doesn’t get the same attention as the Rusty Blackbird. Maybe because it migrates through much of the Eastern US as opposed to wintering here as the Rusty Blackbird does. But worldwide the Horned Grebe is in severe decline.

Rusty Blackbird

Horned Grebe
As seen on these range maps from xeno-canto ( the Rusty blackbird winters in a much larger portion of the Eastern United States. But also note the Horned Grebe is a global and not just hemispherical species.

I also think the Horned Grebe gets less attention in North America than the Rusty Blackbird because it’s a global species has opposed to the Rusty Blackbird being a North American species. Rusty Blackbirds winter in southern swamp hardwood forests and then migrates north to the Arctic tundra.Rusty Blackbird A

Horned Grebe A
From IUNC webpage information on the Rusty Blackbird and Horned Grebe and the justification for Vulnerable status.

If you plan on going out looking for Horned Grebes, which I hope you will, here are some hints.

  1. They like the large, deep water lakes. In my area that means large dammed reservoirs or the smaller man-made gravel pits or interstate borrow ponds. I have also seen them to a lesser extent on wide waters of rivers, but more often on the deep lakes and ponds.
This dark photo shows a Horned Grebe between summer and winter plumage. Lowe’s Pond Franklin, IN 3/29/14

2.  If you’re going to get an accurate count, take time to sit and wait. Horned Grebes have a tendency to dive for a length of time and come up in a different part of the lake. So for an accurate count I usually sit and wait.

If I hadn’t sat and watched for a while I would have missed several birds on the day. These 4 were part of 18 seen at Driftwood SWA on the afternoon. 3/28/15

And once you have a count be sure to enter in eBird. Because eventually the Horned Grebe will pop up on someone’s radar and they will make more birders in North America aware it is an endangered species. And any data you enter in eBird will be used to show their decline and hopeful recovery over the years.

2 Replies to “Besides the Rusty, Another Endangered Species to Check”

  1. I happened across an old field guide from 1983. The horned grebe was described as “this commonest grebe”. Sad that things have changed.

    1. Sitting in the middle of a species migration route I think it is hard to tell if it is declining. Especially one that migrates through quickly. I would still have thought the Horned Grebe wasn’t in any danger.
      It would be interesting to see what the old field guide says about Canada Goose, if it was uncommon as I’m often told it was in the 1980’s.

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