Responding to an alarming drop in the rare bird’s numbers, the California Fish and Game Commission this week is considering an emergency listing of the Tricolored Blackbird under the California Endangered Species Act. Representatives of Audubon California say they support the action by the Commission, which comes on the heels of a statewide survey completed this summer showing a 44 percent decline in Tricolored Blackbirds since 2011.
The Tricolored Blackbird, which once numbered in the millions, lives almost entirely in California, and has long been of concern to conservationists. The loss of 90 percent of its historic habitat is likely the main cause of its decline. A recent survey conducted by UC Davis with the support of Audubon California and the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife counted 145,000 Tricolored Blackbirds remaining in California, down from 260,000 in 2011.
“The rapid decline of this distinctively California bird warrants this action by the Fish and Game Commission,” said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California. “Even with these new protections, it will be important to continue to work with NRCS and other state and federal to provide a future for this species.”
In recent years, Audubon California has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to strike agreements with dairy farmers to delay harvests to allow the young birds to fledge. These agreements with farmers have saved many thousands of Tricolored Blackbirds.
Because of the loss of their traditional wetland habitat, Tricolored Blackbirds often create their huge colonies on dairy farm wheat fields. This puts them at risk when the farmer needs to harvest the field before the young birds have fledged.
“Without the cooperation and commitment of these farmers, this bird would likely be even closer to extinction,” added McCormack. “We will continue to work closely with our partners to find solutions that work for both the birds and the farmers.”
According to the California Endangered Species Act, the Commission may list a species when there is an imminent danger. Once listing is approved, the bird will be protected for six months, after which time the listing may be renewed for another six months.
For photographs and video of Tricolored Blackbirds are available, call (415)644-4606.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. Audubon California is a field program of Audubon, which has more than 60,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local chapters dedicated to protecting birds, wildlife and the habitats that support them.
More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.