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by Alicia Amerson
Rare Tricolored Blackbirds begin to nest throughout the state of California around this time of year.
Why are they rare?
In the 1930s, Tricolored Blackbirds still numbered in the millions, but today there are only about 178,000. Found almost exclusively in California, Tricolored Blackbird breeding colonies can teem with more than 20,000 birds, sometimes all settled into a single 10-acre field or wetland to raise their young.
There is a major effort by the Audubon California, California wildlife officials and other partners to protect rare bird. So how are these conservation research partners accomplishing this challenge?
They try to locate the birds’ colonies when they’re on agricultural fields and then work with the landowner to ensure that the young birds safely fledge. "We save tens of thousands of birds this way every year". Michael Lynes, Audubon California
Although these efforts increase the rate of hatched birds taking flight, the uniquely beautiful species still struggles to survive.
The California Fish and Game Commission is considering placing Tricolored Blackbirds on the state Endangered Species List. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended that the species be listed as Threatened and given full protection under California law.
Why are they still declining?
The are many reasons for this decline. The primary cause of the decline is the loss of marsh and nearby feeding habitats along the coast and in southern California and the Central Valley. With the loss of native habitat, the species has become dependent on agricultural lands, with most of the largest colonies nesting in grain fields.
A real dilemma develops because Tricolored young typically have not yet left the nest before the time farmers harvest their crop, and harvesting destroys Tricolored Blackbird nests and young.
As a Conservation Drone Pilot what can I do?
The first step to conservation drone flights is to seek advice. We suggest you always reach out the biologists before you fly.
In this case, since there are baby birds and this is a reproductive area, Alimosphere highly advises all drone pilots to not fly directly overhead agricultural sites where there are known nests.
If you are interested in creating flight plans to reduce wildlife disturbance you should sign up for Alimosphere's STRIVE Plan course that will help you create strategies for reducing impacts to wildlife.
Perhaps locating birds nests with drones would benefit the California Fish and Game Commission's efforts. Proposals to conduct citizen science should be approved by state government officials. We should gain support from our local stakeholder groups like Audubon California before setting out to conduct hobby flights or agriculture flights with our drones.
If you want to help why don't you let us know by commenting below!
You can have a say in saving the Tricolored Blackbird. Please send emails to the California Fish and Game Commission today, demanding the Tricolored Blackbird receive protection under California’s Endangered Species Act. We’ve set it up to make sending this email very easy – it will just take a moment.
Audubon California supports giving strong protections to this rare bird, and they are seeking our support. Will you’ll speak up in favor as well?