Birds

Tricolored Blackbird

Saving the iconic Tricolored Blackbird of the Central Valley.
Photo: James Scott
Photo: James Scott
Birds

Tricolored Blackbird

Saving the iconic Tricolored Blackbird of the Central Valley.

The Tricolored Blackbird is North America's most colonial nesting landbird. Found almost exclusively in California, a single breeding colony can teem with over 35,000 birds, sometimes all settled into a single field or small wetland to raise their young. While similar to the more widespread Red-winged Blackbird, the male Tricolored Blackbird is distinguished by its red shoulder patch with a bright white wing-bar.

In the 19th century, Tricolored Blackbird flocks were described as numerous and often consisted of hundreds of thousands of birds. Since then, the population has declined from several million to approximately 177,000 today. Over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2016, it is estimated the population declined by as much as 34%.

There are many reasons for this decline. But the loss of native wetland 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 grain fields. A real dilemma develops as Tricolored Blackbird young typically have not yet left the nest before the time farmers need to harvest their crop, and harvesting destroys Tricolored Blackbird nests and young. In some cases, tens of thousands of nests have been lost in a single field.

Each year, these birds gather in highly social colonies to raise their young throughout the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, Central Coast, and Southern California. However, with the continuing loss of habitat and the places they need to survive are becoming scarcer. As a result of this continued habitat loss and drastic population decline, Tricolored Blackbirds were recently listed under California's Endangered Species Act thus highlighting the 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.

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

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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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Victory! 170,000 Tricolored Blackbirds saved in 2021
Tricolored Blackbird

Victory! 170,000 Tricolored Blackbirds saved in 2021

Thanks to our agricultural partners,100% of thirteen Tricolored Blackbird colonies across the San Joaquin Valley in California were protected this year.

Read more

We did it! 177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020
Working Lands

We did it! 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

SUCCESS! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2019
Tricolored Blackbird

Success! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2019

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

Read more

Latest News

Dairies Help Save Tricolored Blackbirds
Tricolored Blackbird

Dairies Help Save Tricolored Blackbirds in the Central Valley

6 Years Strong - Audubon partners with NRCS and family dairy farmers in the Central Valley to protect threatened birds.

Victory! 170,000 Tricolored Blackbirds saved in 2021
Tricolored Blackbird

Victory! 170,000 Tricolored Blackbirds saved in 2021

Thanks to our agricultural partners,100% of thirteen Tricolored Blackbird colonies across the San Joaquin Valley in California were protected this year.

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.

We did it! 177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020
Working Lands

We did it! 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 in 2019
Tricolored Blackbird

Success! 178,500 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2019

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.

How you can help, right now