2015 Rusty Blackbird Blitz

In March, volunteers across North Carolina participated in the second annual Rusty Blackbird Blitz. The Rusty Blackbird Blitz is organized by the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group which exists to understand and reverse the decline of the Rusty Blackbird. Although scientists have made huge strides in understanding Rusty Blackbirds on their breeding and wintering grounds – partly thanks to the original Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz – surprisingly little is known about the migratory requirements and habits of this species.

The Spring Blitz challenges volunteer birders to seek out the elusive Rusty Blackbird on their northward migration from the southern United States, through the Midwest, along the East Coast, and up into Canada. The Blitzes are citizen science initiatives that depend on ordinary people visiting local sites and reporting any Rusties they see. Thanks to everyone who participated by logging Rusty sightings to eBird during spring migration!

This and other Citizen Science opportunities are highlighted on the NC Birding Trail “Birding for Science” page.

Number of US states that participated

38 States

Number of People Who Reported Rusty Sightings

4,756 Birders

Number of checklists reporting Rusty Sightings submitted to eBird

13,540 Checklists

Number of Checklists submitted under Blitz Protocol

3,527 Checklists

Number of People who Submitted Checklists Under Blitz Protocol

698 Birders


Audubon Sanctuary in Corolla

 An example of the marsh habitat the Audbon's Sanctuary in Corolla will protect

Audubon’s Climate Study identifies more than 300 bird species at risk due to the damaging effects of climate change. With birds inhabiting more northerly habitats, Audubon’s Sanctuary in Corolla has been identified as being in the top 2% of strongholds for birds to survive the effects of climate change over the next century.

This Saltmarsh Sparrow calls the Audubon Sanctuary in Corrolla home. 



In their latest video, Audubon is giving viewers a peek behind the gates of the Sanctuary in Corolla where scientists are making great strides in conservation efforts to protect birds in North Carolina.










Volunteers Needed for Nightjar Survey

It's time for the annual Nightjar Survey, North Carolina! We are looking for volunteers who can dedicate a single night to listening for Nightjar calls during our May 25th - June 8th and June 25th - July 8th survey windows. This survey is sponsored by the Nightjar Survey Network, a national initiative organized by The Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University, along with partner organizations at state and local levels. The survey effort is entirely dependent on volunteer participation. If you are interested in helping biologists learn more about these amazing birds, please contact us, or visit the Nightjar Survey Network website for information.

What is a Nightjar? 

Nightjars are the most enigmatic family of birds in North America, and among the most peculiar in the world. Little is known about their biology, as their reclusive nature makes them difficult to study. They typically nest and rest on the ground, where their cryptic plumage keeps them well camouflaged. They are nocturnal, or crepuscular, and feed on large, flying insects. Though notoriously difficult to spot, Nightjars are easily identified by their distinct calls on warm, moonlit evenings. The resident Nightjar species in North Carolina are the Common Nighthawk, Chuck-will's-widow, and Eastern Whip-poor-will--pictured above. 

If you are able to learn the calls of these three species, and would like to dedicate an evening to helping scientists learn more about these fascinating birds, then please consider volunteering! There are still several available survey routes across the state.


Birding for Science - Spring/Summer Opportunities

nighttime surveys ©Scott Anderson
You don't have to be a scientist or researcher to participate in scientific studies! Even casual observations of the natural world can reveal species declines or previously unknown populations. In fact, many important, large scale studies would not be possible without data from the public! The NC Birding Trail has a new page of opportunities for novice to advanced birders and birdwatchers to collect data that will help scientists better understand bird populations.

Some upcoming projects:

1. Rusty Blackbird Blitz (Starting in March) - visit NCBT sites or other locations during the month of March and record any sightings of Rusty Blackbirds in eBird. - Some driving required; learn to identify 1 species; time commitment varies 

2. Nightjar Surveys (May - July) - Travel a pre-determined route at night, listening for chuck-will's-widow, eastern whip-poor-will, and common nighthawks. Don't be intimidated, there's plenty of resources to learn their calls! - Some driving required at night; learn to identify 3 species; ~6 hrs

3. NestWatch (Spring-Summer) - Find and record the success or failure of nests in your neighborhood, or nearby park. Nests could be in a nestbox or not! - No driving required; backyard species ID; ~2-3 hrs per year 

Stay tuned for other opportunities!


The Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend!


The easiest birding event to participate in happens this weekend, February 13-16. The Great Backyard Bird Count is an event sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All you have to do to participate is watch for birds in your yard (or anywhere for that matter) for at least 15 minutes on one or more days this weekend then enter your data on their website or via the BirdLog AppCheck out their website for full details.

Not an expert? No problem! Bird-watchers of any experience level are encouraged to participate. The GBBC website provides resources for identifying birds, including some of the trickier, easy to mis-identify species. You could also use the Merlin Bird ID App.

If you don't have time this weekend, but are itching to watch bird for science, check out our list of annual citizen science efforts in the state.