A small population of Tricolored Blackbirds inhabit the Kern River Valley year round and unlike the majority of habitat used by these birds in California, the habitat used in the valley is primarily native and natural, and doesn't present the same dangers as agricultural fields. Kerncrest Audubon, Kern Audubon and other partners are creating and enhancing three wetlands for Tricolored Blackbirds nesting within the valley with the primary aim of providing annually stable natural breeding habitat that will be unaffected by seasonal drought or agricultural crop management.
Two of the wetland sites selected by the group are located in the Audubon Kern River Preserve. The Sprague wetland enhancement site is located less than two kilometer from two different active breeding Tricolored Blackbird colonies on Kern River Preserve property. The “Gibboney” wetland enhancement site is approximately one kilometer from a historic breeding colony. Last year a local rancher volunteered to create the Sprague pond area using a small bulldozer. Other groups of volunteers collected mugwort and nettle seeds from the Audubon Kern River Preserve and planted them along the edge of the enhancement area. Seed dispersal/planting was scheduled around anticipated rain and, fortunately, the rain complied by falling days after the plantings. The group is now focused on continued planting of target plants and weeding away invasives.
While no Tricoloreds have been seen using either enhancement site yet, last year surveyers did see approximately 20 birds nesting in the mugwort at the Kern River Preserve headquarters. The group hopes this breeding season their site is more desireable to nesting birds.