Tag Archives: MBTA

NEW VIDEO – MUSIC OF THE MARSH – RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD

One of the earliest (and most eagerly anticipated) signs of spring in the Northeast is the arrival of the Red-winged Blackbird. The males begin their displays weeks before the females arrive. Their preferred breeding habitat is wetlands, of which Cape Ann and Massachusetts has no shortage.

The females are interested in what the male sounds like and look likes. The male’s brilliant red epaulettes and raucous calls are meant to both attract females and and defend against competitors. The species is polygynous: a male successfully defending a good territory may mate with up to fifteen females in a season. Red-winged Blackbirds usually nest in loose colonies and females often mate with males other than the territory holder. Clutches of unknown paternity are not uncommon.

Males defend against intruders of all sizes — not only competing males, but also Great Blue Herons, raptors, Crows, and reportedly, even people wandering too close to their nests.

Male giving chase this past weekend to an American Kestrel

Male (above) and female Red-winged Blackbird. Red-wings are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females have very different appearances.

Red-winged Blackbirds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on seeds and grain including grasses, rice, corn, and sunflowers; a wide variety of insects and spiders, especially during the breeding season; and also small berries such as blackberries.

The Red-winged Blackbird is the United States’ and Canada’s most widely distributed blackbird. Nonetheless these wide spread wanderers are concern for conservationists.  Red-winged Blackbirds and other blackbirds are frequently targeted at their roosts in agricultural areas, where the birds may cause crop damage. (The Bobolink is persecuted on its South American wintering grounds for similar reasons.)Decades long control measures such as trapping, poisoning, and shooting, along with climate change and habitat loss, have resulted in a substantial decline in Red-winged Blackbird populations. Also under attack are important conservation laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA.)

THE GREAT EGRET’S SHOWER OF WHITE

The Great Egret’s beautiful shower of white feathers and plume hunter’s greed nearly caused this most elegant of creatures to become exterminated in North America. Because of  the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in 1918, slowly but steadily, the Great Egret is recovering. An increasing number of pairs are breeding today in Massachusetts.

A chance encounter and a joy to observe this Great Egret, floofing, poofing, and preening after a day hunting in the marsh. 

The MBTA states that it is unlawful to kill, hunt, sell, or possess most native species of birds in the United States without a permit and it is one of our nation’s most foundational conservation laws.

Birds Protected Under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act

USFWS: Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 implements four international conservation treaties that the U.S. entered into with Canada in 1916Mexico in 1936Japan in 1972, and Russia in 1976. It is intended to ensure the sustainability of populations of all protected migratory bird species.

The law has been amended with the signing of each treaty, as well as when any of the treaties were amended, such as with Mexico in 1976 and Canada in 1995.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The List of Migratory Bird Species Protected by the MBTA

The list of migratory bird species protected by the law is primarily based on bird families and species included in the four international treaties. In the Code of Federal Regulations one can locate this list under Title 50 Part 10.13 (10.13 list). The 10.13 list was updated in 2020, incorporating the most current scientific information on taxonomy and natural distribution. The list is also available in a downloadable Microsoft Excel file.

A migratory bird species is included on the list if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. It occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes and is currently, or was previously listed as, a species or part of a family protected by one of the four international treaties or their amendments.
  2. Revised taxonomy results in it being newly split from a species that was previously on the list, and the new species occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes.
  3. New evidence exists for its natural occurrence in the United States or U.S. territories resulting from natural distributional changes and the species occurs in a protected family.