In the 19th Century, Tricolored Blackbird flocks were so numerous “as to darken the sky.” Over the last 70 years, the Tricolored Blackbird population has declined from several million to fewer than 180,000. The majority of remaining birds are found in California and can nest in large colonies consisting of more than 20,000 birds.
The reasons for their decline are many, but the loss of wetland and nearby feeding habitats across their range, particularly in the Central Valley, has had the largest impact. Due to the loss of native habitat the species has become dependent on agricultural lands with most of the largest colonies nesting in grain fields. This causes a direct conflict as the timing of harvest to maintain crop quality is sooner than birds need to complete their nesting cycle.
Through a collaborative conservation approach, Audubon California has brought together a group of agricultural partners including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dairy Cares, and Western United Dairies. This alliance has provided Audubon an avenue to directly educate and provide resources to farmers to protect Tricolored Blackbirds across California.
Audubon California has been leading the coordination of this collaborative effort since 2014. This program demonstrates the effectiveness of partnerships between conservation groups and agriculture interests, supporting farmers and protecting birds. This short video produced by our partner, Dairy Cares, highlights the need for these partnerships to persist now and into the future. For more information about these efforts or to find out how you can help, please contact the Tricolored Blackbird Conservation Project Manager Xerónimo Castañeda at firstname.lastname@example.org.