California’s Tricolored Blackbirds in steep decline

Tricolored Blackbird.
Tricolored Blackbird.

UC Davis researcher Robert Meese is convinced the population will drop below 100,000.

April 3, 2014
(from The Fresno Bee)

From farm fields to wildlife refuges, the drought is hampering efforts to keep California’s Tricolored Blackbird off the endangered species list.

Historically there have been as many as 3 million Tricolored Blackbirds in California, where most of the species lives. That number has dropped precipitously as Central Valley habitat in marshes, creeks and vernal pools has disappeared. Scarce water this year has made the situation worse.

“The Tricolored Blackbird has been on a downward spiral since 2006,” said Robert Meese, a researcher in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis. “I’m convinced we will see the number of birds drop to 100,000 or even less.”

Tricolored Blackbirds in flight.

One of the problems is the birds aren’t getting the right kind of nutrition. “Grasshoppers are a favorite insect for tricolored blackbirds,” he said. “One colony of birds had 50,000 offspring one year. We need to help the birds find that kind of habitat.”

(Read the full story by Mark Grossi, March 15, 2014, in The Fresno Bee.)

Additional information:
Meese was also interviewed on Southern California Public Radio. Read highlights or listen to Drought contributing to decline of the tricolored blackbird.

Media contact:
•    Robert Meese, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis, 530-752-7861,

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis, contact:
•    Ann Filmer, Senior Director of Communications, 530-754-6788,