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Rusty or Brewer's Blackbird

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egosnell2002, thank you for the response. Actually I looked for that rusty edging on the wings and couldn't see it, knowing that would definitely mean it was a Rusty. From what I can tell, lack of rusty edging on the wings doesn't mean it's a Brewer's though. It appears when male Rusty's are changing in the fall they may have some brown on the head but lack the edging, such as in this photo:


(some more examples, assuming they are correctly ID'd: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/80138471https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/72874341)

I thought the habitat (swampy ponds) and behavior (flipping leaves) was also in favor of a Rusty. However, the location is California, where it's rare, a few weeks before Rusty's have been reported, albeit also at a higher elevation than usual (I theorized if they were to show up early, it might be up here).

It's very difficult finding examples of immature male Brewer's Blackbirds, but one that was reported as a Brewer's that looks similar was this bird, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114856441

According to an article with information on how to distinguish the two, it says "Brewer's Blackbirds have a brownish cast to their plumage, and some show a superciliary line, but they never have the rich rusty-brown and buff colors of the Rusty Blackbird. Instead, the brown tends toward gray, and the superciliary line is never as bold". It would appear if indeed my bird and the last one linked are Brewer's then that sort of plumage with a bold supercilium is very unusual.

Edited by tedsandyman
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Thanks IvoryBillHope. Yes it's in California and a little early so a Rusty Blackbird would be quite rare. I admit I withheld the location from the first post because I was curious what some thoughts would be without taking location into account. I wasn't necessarily looking for / wanting a Rusty (though it'd be nice), but I can't find anything definite written in descriptions or showing in guides / photos to convince me that it's a Brewer's aside from this report (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114856441), location, and lack of clear rusty edging on the wings.

On the other hand there's this report (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/72874341) with a bird that looks very similar to the last two photos (and all the various rather vague descriptions about boldness of supercilium and color).

Maybe will just have to leave it at "Rusty / Brewer's" in my mind...

Edited by tedsandyman
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Actually,  one more "last" shot for anyone interested--a screen capture of a video I took of the bird. It seems to show a bit of a hooked overbite (somewhat apparent in the first photo), as well as shorter outer rectrices, both seemingly characteristics typical of Rusty Blackbird. I also found an interesting discussion (http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/ID_FRONTIERS?page=4&count=50&year=2011) with some details about distinguishing the species. 


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Good question--yes, I did... The reviewer for my county warned that some Brewer's have brown and can be tricky, and that the timing was early, so it would need to be very well documented, but he was also interested in hearing other opinions. I haven't shared the last photo with him, so that would be interesting to check his thoughts on it.

I also sent the first 5 photos to an experienced birder and he found the reported Brewer's that looked similar (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114856441). He said in his opinion he felt it wasn't one but didn't mention details (aside from that Brewer's and also, again, the admittedly strong argument that it would be the earliest report of one in the region). 

I think I will pursue some other avenues, but if anyone experienced with Rusty's has thoughts, it's certainly welcome.

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