The California Fish and Game Commission voted 2-1 today to deny candidacy of the Tricolored Blackbird under the California Endangered Species Act. The Commission, which in December voted to grant the species emergency protections under the Act, rejected the recommendation of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to proceed with listing.

“The Fish and Game Commission betrayed its mandate,” said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California. “The Commission’s stated mission is to ensure the long term sustainability of California’s wildlife, but today two of its members chose politics over sound policy and rejected the science-based recommendations of its own staff in order to deny protection to one of California’s most imperiled birds.”

The Tricolored Blackbird, which once numbered in the millions, has declined by 44 percent since 2011. 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.

In recent years, Audubon California has supported efforts by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to create 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. 

“While we are displeased the Tricolored Blackbird won’t be listed this year, this set back will not hinder our commitment to its recovery,” McCormack said. “We are committed to working closely with our partners at government agencies like the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, as well as agricultural groups like Western United Dairymen, to save this iconic species from extinction.”

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.

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