Tricolored Blackbirds at Deer Creek Hills

tricolored blackbird

The Barn Pond Loop at Deer Creek Hills Preserve is CLOSED FOR THE SPRING SEASON due to the presence of Tricolored Blackbirds a California Department of Fish and Game Commission listed THREATENED and International Union for the Conservation of Nature IUCN listed ENDANGERED species. “Tricolored Blackbird population has declined by more than 50% since 1970, leaving the global breeding population at approximately 300,000 individuals according to Partners in Flight.” Learn more about the Tricolored Blackbird through Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Deer Creek Hills is a Nature Preserve, as such, habitat protection is our top priority. Thank you for respecting this trail closure. Together we are providing a safe and welcoming breeding site for Tricolored Blackbird at Deer Creek Hills Preserve. Photo Credit: Lisa Couper DVM Photography

Species Spotlight

Tricolored Blackbirds (Agelaius tricolor), also known as Trikes, are an endemic species found almost exclusively in California. SVC’s preserves help provide safe and welcoming nesting sites for this declining species. In 2019, the Tricolored Blackbird was officially listed as ‘threatened’ by the California Fish and Game Commission. In April 2020, docents Thomas Baumann and Lisa Couper confirmed 80-100 nesting tricolored blackbirds while monitoring Deer Creek Hills (DCH) Preserve.

“It’s great news to have the birds counted and verified, it shows the strength of adaptive management at work” – Carly Amatisto, SVC Program Coordinator.While similar to the Red-winged Blackbird, Trikes are discernible by their longer, more conical bills, distinctive “sick cat-like” shrill, and male birds have stark white edging on their red wing epaulets. In winter you may see mixed foraging flocks containing both blackbirds, but nesting behavior of the two species is decidedly different.The colonies are often observed in groups of hundreds to thousands. Birds stream in and out of the colony to procure nesting material or high-protein food like grasshoppers and dragonflies for their young. Trikes seek a safe haven for nesting such as large stands of thistle, mustard, blackberries, bulrushes or cattails and need an open water source within about a 1/4 mile. In 2006 the largest colony observed was 140,000 birds. By 2017 the largest colonies consisted of about 13,000. As a consequence of the loss of 75-85% native wetlands in California, colonies are forced to relocate to smaller, less disturbed sites, like DCH and are found to be smaller in size. Together we are providing a safe and welcoming breeding site for the Tricolored Blackbird on SVC preserves.

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