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TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD } Agelaius tricolor

RANGE: Primarily California’s Central Valley; also found in Riverside, Colusa, San Diego, Siskiyou, and Alameda counties; has been reported in Oregon and Baja California, Mexico, with rare sightings in Nevada and Washington

STATUS: According to NatureServe, the tricolored is still relatively abundant, but the bird is Imperiled because of recent major declines.

THREATS: Habitat destruction from agriculture, urban development, and wetland draining; predation; competition with other species; and possibly direct removal of birds from private property

The tricolored blackbird forms the largest colonies of any North American land bird, often with breeding groups of tens of thousands of individuals. In the 19th century, some colonies contained more than a million birds — enough to make one observer exclaim over flocks darkening the sky “for some distance by their masses.” But because a small number of colonies may contain most of the population, human impacts can have devastating results. Over the past 70 years, destruction of the tricolored’s marsh and grassland homes has reduced its populations to a small fraction of their former enormity, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has so far refused to extend any protection to the species.


Photo by USFWS