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California farmers paid to protect tricolored blackbirds

Tricolored blackbird 2
Paying three farmers to delay harvesting their fields through the nesting season resulted in the protection of an estimated 50,000 tricolored blackbirds in Riverside County and Central California, where the species’ population has plummeted in recent years.

Audubon California negotiated the agreements, two of which were funded by the California Department of Fish and Game. However, Audubon California used revenue from its online “5 dollars/5 birds” fundraising campaign to protect the Riverside County colony.

In that case, a dairy farmer near Hemet was compensated to delay cutting tall grass on a 30-acre field holding 4,000 tricolored blackbirds, which is roughly 70% of the birds left in Southern California.

“When you crunch the numbers, the amount we paid worked out to roughly $1 per bird,” said Audubon California spokesman Garrison Frost.

Tricolored blackbirds once numbered in the millions. Today, the population, which has one of the smallest ranges of any bird in North America, has declined to about 400,000.

“With the continuing loss of native marshes and grasslands, the species has become dependent on agricultural lands, and most of the large colonies nest in grain fields,” Frost said. “Because tricolored blackbirds nest in just a few large colonies, a farmer harvesting a field unknowingly might wipe out a huge portion of the entire species’ young in just a few minutes."

"More than 95% of the world’s tricolored blackbirds live in California,” he added, “so we have a special responsibility to protect them.”


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 -- Louis Sahagun

 Photo: Tricolored blackbird Credit: Lee Karney/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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I'd like to see tricolored blackbirds, although I understand they can be hard to tell from the much-more-common redwing blackbirds (which is what Joanne is seeing).

Soon despite all efforts most wild birds will vanish because of the relentless growth of the human population.Wild animals cannot exit without habitat and food sources.Wild animals are forced to interact with humans for food with disastrous results.Any casual reader of the LA Times constant reporting of dwindling wildlife and over development can see the future... goodbye tricolored blackbirds.Goodbye to the sublime pleasure of the flash of red in the sky...hello overpopulation and urban sprawl.

A buck a bird? Hey, man, flip some bills my way and I won't chuck my beer cans at 'em.

There are a lot of them just north of the San Francisco airport. There are marsh areas on both sides of the freeway. They like to beg for food from the people eating at Costco.

I remember as a kid looking for red wing blackbird nests along the drainage ditches and ponds on my uncle's dairy farm.The males were beautiful in the summer sun.The females would flutter about while I carefully inspected her nest for the baby blue eggs or her featherless young ones.Their song is unique and not to be mistaken,similar to the meadow lark's,who nested in the fields nearby.They are not as majestic as an eagle,but to me they were one of the favorite birds of that adventuresome young boy.I am glad something special is being done to help them, so some other curious boy will share my childish wonder of this special species.The thoughts of past summers long ago still amaze this old man.


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