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Tricolored Blackbird Update

Modesto, Calif., (February 21, 2018) – As I write this on February 14, Valentine’s Day, love is in the air. The Tricolored Blackbirds are also in an amorous mood getting together with their mates and looking for a place to build a nest. In a natural setting 200 years ago they would be looking for a wetland with cattails to weave their nests above the water. However, today fields of wheat and Triticale are more common and just as acceptable to the Tricolored Blackbird.

The Tricolor continues to be a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and as such is a protected species. It is unlawful to kill a protected species. After a considerable time as a candidate, it looks like the Tricolor will get its hearing in front of the California Fish and Game Commission as early as this April. The Commission will decide whether to list the Tricolored Blackbird as threaten or endangered under CESA. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has written a status review of the Tricolored Blackbird and in that status review the Department makes a recommendation that the Commission list the species as threatened. Having farmers work proactively to protect the bird helps make a case that the species does not have to be listed as efforts have been undertaken that will protect this species. Western United Dairymen has been engaged on this issue since I have been here and will continue to advocate for our members at the upcoming hearing.

One of those efforts is a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant from USDA- NRCS that Western United Dairymen partnered on with California Farm Bureau, Dairy Cares, Sustainable Conservation, and Audubon of California to help compensate farmers who decide to delay harvest due to nesting Tricolors. The grant would make payments for the lost feed value from the area where the birds nest in a field. Additional information about this funding is available at your local NRCS office or you can contact me at the WUD office.

Farm Bureau, working with the groups mentioned above, has once again worked to develop protections for farmers who delay harvest and follow the advice of a qualified biologist in allowing for an area to not be harvested until the birds have fledged. Farmers that follow that advice, and inform the Department of Fish and Wildlife, are eligible for that protection. This is important because penalties for harming the birds can be significant and are best to be avoided.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other volunteers will be out once again looking for areas where the birds might be nesting. If you have any questions on this issue please give me a call at the WUD office. If you believe you might have Tricolors nesting your forage fields, you should contact NRCS to have their biologist provide a confidential assessment.


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