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California Protects Tricolored Blackbird As A Threatened Species, Fewer Than 200,000 Remain

Marcel Holyoak / Flickr
Male Tricolored Blackbirds have a red spot and a white bar on their wings. They mostly call California home, and the bird’s population has dropped by 55 percent since 2008.";

Tricolored Blackbird populations have dropped 55 percent over the past decade, leading the state of California to list the bird as threatened last week.

Male Tricolored Blackbirds have a red spot and a white bar on their wings. They mostly call California home.

“Tricolored Blackbirds are really California’s blackbird,” said Samantha Arthur with Audubon California.

She applauds the California Fish and Game Commission's recent decision to list Tricolored Blackbirds as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. In the 1930s there were millions of the birds in the state. Today there are fewer than 178,000.

"It's never good news to see a species go on the list, but this is an opportunity to bring folks together to address the threats,” Arthur adds. "We're seeing California really step up to protect its wildlife, when on the national level those same types of protections are being undercut.

The birds nest in huge colonies – picture 20,000 birds filling the sky. They prefer wetlands, but often make grain fields home because of habitat loss and climate change. That’s a problem for farmers who use the crops for feed.

“One colony of lots of birds altogether can lose their reproductive output if for example a field is harvested that they are nesting in,” said Arthur.

In response, dairy owners are actively working with Audubon and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to allow the birds to nest where they want. If they choose a farmer's field, funds are available for replacement feed.

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