Birds

Tricolored Blackbird

The Tricolored Blackbird needs our help to survive
Photo: James Scott
Photo: James Scott
Birds

Tricolored Blackbird

The Tricolored Blackbird needs our help to survive

The Tricolored Blackbird is North America's most colonial landbird. Found almost exclusively in California, its breeding colonies can teem with up to 25,000 birds, sometimes all settled into a single 10-acre field or wetland to raise their young. While similar to the more widespread Red-winged Blackbird, the Tricolored Blackbird is distinguished by its red shoulder patch with a bright white bar.

In the 19th Century, Tricolored Blackbird flocks were described as numerous. Since then, the population has declined from several million to approximately 145,000 today. Over just the last 6 years, the Tricolored Blackbird population has decreased by 44%.

The reasons for this decline are many, but the loss of marsh and nearby foraging habitats along the coast and in the Central Valley is the main issue. In more recent years, the species has become dependent on agricultural lands, with most of the largest colonies nesting in wheat fields. A real dilemma develops because Tricolored young typically have not yet left the nest before the time farmers harvest their crop, and harvesting destroys Tricolored Blackbird nests and young. In some cases as many as 20,000 nests have been lost in a single field.

Each year, they gather in highly social colonies for breeding throughout the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, Central Coast, and Southern California.  With Tricolored Blackbirds recently listed under California's Endangered Species Act, recovery of this species is more critical than ever.

Audubon California's Xerónimo Castañeda shows us a great Tricolored Blackbird colony in the Central Valley.

177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!
Working Lands

177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!

In the sixth year of the Audubon Summer Conservation Program, we worked closely with dairy producers to protect 100% of the known 15 Tricolored Blackbird colonies on agricultural fields across four counties.

Read more

How Private Landowners Can Save Tricolored Blackbirds
Tricolored Blackbird

How Private Landowners Can Save Tricolored Blackbirds

Farms and ranches will play a critical role in conserving Tricolored Blackbirds across the Central Valley.

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Farmers Play Key Role in Protecting Tricolored Blackbirds
Tricolored Blackbird

Farmers Play Key Role in Protecting Tricolored Blackbirds

Watch this video by Audubon's partner Dairy Cares in the Central Valley

Read more

Tricolored Blackbird Recovery Imperiled
Audublog

Tricolored Blackbird Recovery Imperiled

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Denies Threatened Species Federal Listing under Endangered Species Act

Read more

SUCCESS! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved This Season
Tricolored Blackbird

Success! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved

This spring, 90% of colonies thrived in the Central Valley

Read more

Collaborative Conservation
Tricolored Blackbird

Collaborative Conservation

We work closely with landowners and partners in the Tricolored Blackbird Working Group to protect the Tricolored Blackbird across California.

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Latest News

Collaborative Conservation
Tricolored Blackbird

Collaborative Conservation

We work closely with landowners and partners in the Tricolored Blackbird Working Group to protect the Tricolored Blackbird across California.

177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!
Working Lands

177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!

In the sixth year of the Audubon Summer Conservation Program, we worked closely with dairy producers to protect 100% of the known 15 Tricolored Blackbird colonies on agricultural fields across four counties.

Farmers Play Key Role in Protecting Tricolored Blackbirds
Tricolored Blackbird

Farmers Play Key Role in Protecting Tricolored Blackbirds

Watch this video by Audubon's partner Dairy Cares in the Central Valley

Tricolored Blackbird Recovery Imperiled
Audublog

Tricolored Blackbird Recovery Imperiled

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Denies Threatened Species Federal Listing under Endangered Species Act

SUCCESS! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved This Season
Tricolored Blackbird

Success! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved

This spring, 90% of colonies thrived in the Central Valley

Cool Tricolored Blackbird colony in the Central Valley

Audubon California's Xerónimo Castañeda shows off a great Tricolored Blackbird colony in the Central Valley. Learn more about our work to protect this great species here.

Sights and sounds of the search for Tricolored Blackbird colonies

Our own Xerónimo Castañeda captured these shots from the road during his recent searches through the Central Valley looking for Tricolored Blackbirds. Learn more about our work to save Tricolored Blackbirds here.

Marking off a Tricolored Blackbird colony in Merced County

Audubon California's Xerónimo Castañeda takes us up close to a Tricolored Blackbird colony in Merced County. In just a couple of weeks, the number of colonies in the southern part of the Central Valley has spiked. And all these colonies need to be protected.

Tricolored Blackbird breeding ramping up fast
Tricolored Blackbird

Tricolored Blackbird breeding ramping up fast

More colonies, more nests.

Tricolored Blackbird breeding season is off and running

Audubon California's Xerónimo Castañeda talks about the beginning of the 2019 Tricolored Blackbird breeding season. He even talks about finding his first found colony of the season. This is an important time for the Tricolored Blackbird, as it is now listed as Threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. That said, we still need to identify the colonies and do everything we can to protect them. Learn more about our efforts to save this terrific bird here.

How you can help, right now