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Tricoloured Mega-Colony Saved

Farmer Agrees Harvest Delay

Audubon California has announced that it has reached an agreement with a farmer to safeguard a single colony of about 80,000 Tricoloured Blackbirds Agelaius tricolor – nearly a third of the world’s population of this Endangered species.

The estimated global population of Tricoloured Blackbirds is 250,000 to 300,000 birds, with at least 95% of these occurring in California. Tricoloured Blackbirds have declined dramatically in the past century as native wetland habitat has been lost and the species has consequently been classified as Endangered. Tricoloured Blackbirds form just a few large nesting colonies each year, and in most cases these occur in crop fields. This puts the colonies in grave danger when farmers cultivate the field before young birds are able to fly.“This is really a great victory for conservation, and an example of how conservation and agricultural interests can work together to find real solutions”, said Graham Chisholm, director of conservation for Audubon California. “The Tricoloured Blackbird is an important part of California’s natural beauty, and this agreement, combined with other conservation measures, will help to ensure that it has a healthy future.”

Through a cooperative agreement with Audubon California, the farmer will delay the harvest of 65 hectares where the colony is nesting. This delay will provide enough time for the young to leave the nest, ensuring the success of the state’s largest breeding colony. Because the delay in harvesting will reduce the market value of the crop, Audubon California has agreed to compensate the farmer for any lost value.a solution to save this mega-colony of Tricoloured Blackbirds”, said Chisholm. “We’ve found that the more we talk about these issues, the more we understand that we don’t necessarily have to choose between the protection of important species and the economic interests of farming communities.”

Public and private land managers are working to manage habitat for Tricoloured Blackbirds in order to encourage the birds to nest in wetlands and other secure habitats as opposed to agricultural fields. Audubon California is part of a statewide working group, including public agencies, farmer and rancher organizations, conservation organizations, researchers from UC Davis and others to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect Tricoloured Blackbirds.

The funding for this agreement was made possible thanks to private funds and a grant from the California Department of Fish and Game through the Landowner Incentive Program.

4th July 2014