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Protection for rare Tricoloured Blackbird colonies

Posted on 15. July, 2011.

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Audubon California has negotiated agreements with farmers to secure the safety of several large colonies of rare Tricoloured Blackbirds. In all, the agreements resulted in the protection of the breeding production of at least 50,000 birds, which constitutes more than 10% of the species’ global population.

In the early 20th century, Tricoloured Blackbird flocks numbered in the millions, but since then the population has declined to fewer than 400,000 today. The reasons for this decline are many, but the loss of wetlands and grasslands in southern California and the Central Valley is the main issue.

With the loss of native habitat, the species has become dependent on agricultural lands, with most of the largest colonies nesting in grain fields. Because Tricoloured Blackbirds nest in just a few huge colonies, a farmer harvesting a field unknowingly might wipe out a huge portion of the entire species’ young in just a few minutes. Audubon California negotiates with farmers to delay the harvesting of these fields, compensating the farmers for the loss of value of their crops that might result from the delay.

“More than 95% the world’s Tricoloured Blackbirds live in California, so we have a special responsibility to protect them,” says Graham Chisholm, executive director of Audubon California. “This shows what private landowners can do to help a declining species and make a big conservation impact. Their willingness to help has been inspiring.”

In picture: Tricoloured Blackbird. Photo courtesy of Lee Karney, US Fish & Wildlife Service.

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