Protecting Critical Tricolored Blackbird Nesting Habitat in Kern County by Audubon California

Audubon California is working with property owners in Kern County to protect rare Tricolored Blackbirds, one of California’s most unique bird species. The effort targets a breeding colony of 5,000 to 10,000 blackbirds on 30 acres of privately held wetlands, some of which are part of the Sand Ridge-Tulare Lake Bed Important Bird Area.

At the request of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Audubon California reached an agreement with two waterfowl hunting clubs, El Cinco and Los Alamos Farms, to facilitate funding to pump water to maintain flooded cattail habitat.

“Habitat loss often forces Tricolored Blackbirds to breed on agricultural lands which unfortunately puts them at risk” said Scott Frazer, Partners for Fish & Wildlife program biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “We are committed to working with private and public wetland managers to restore Tricolored Blackbirds.”

California is home to 95 percent of the world’s population of Tricolored Blackbirds, and they are listed as a state species of special concern. The birds commonly nest in silage fields, ditches and other areas around dairy farms in the San Joaquin Valley and in limited areas in southern California, which presents a risk when fields are ready for harvest and young birds cannot yet fly.

The private wetlands at El Cinco and Los Alamos farms are a significant regional location that has successfully produced young Tricolored Blackbirds for four consecutive years. This is unusual for Tricolored Blackbirds, a species known as a nomadic breeder, whose behavior is difficult to predict.

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