Tricolored Blackbird gets new protections in fight to stave off extinction

California Fish and Game Commission adds struggling bird to state endangered species list.

Ventura, Calif. – Responding to an alarming drop in the rare bird’s numbers, the California Fish and Game Commission today listed the Tricolored Blackbird as Threatened under the California Endangered Species Act.

Representatives of Audubon California – which has fought to protect Tricolored Blackbirds for more than a decade – supported the move, pointing to studies showing that the bird’s population has declined 55 percent since 2008.

“It’s not good news when any bird goes on the endangered species list, but today’s decision by the California Fish and Game Commission provides a necessary tool in the fight to stave off extinction for Tricolored Blackbirds,” said Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California. “Now we can chart a course for this unique bird’s rebound and eventual removal from the list.”

Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told the commission in February that the best available science warrants listing, and this recommendation weighted heavily in the commission’s final decision.

The Tricolored Blackbird lives almost entirely in California and once numbered in the millions in the 1930s, but its population has declined to a fraction of what it once was. Habitat loss and breeding colony disruption are considered to be the main causes of its decline.

In recent years, Audubon California has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and dairy trade associations 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. These activities were strengthened in recent years under emergency listings and temporary listings put in place while the Fish and Game Commission considered formal protections under the California Endangered Species Act.

Because of the loss of their traditional wetland habitat, Tricolored Blackbirds often create their huge colonies on dairy farm forage fields. This puts them at risk when the farmer needs to harvest the field before the young birds have fledged.

“Without the support of the NRCS and the cooperation of these farmers this bird would likely be even closer to extinction,” added Rose. “We will continue to work closely with these partners to find solutions that work for both the birds and the farmers.”

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 350,000 members and supporters in California and an affiliated 48 local chapters dedicated to protecting birds, wildlife and the habitats that support them.


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