The California Fish and Game Commission approved an emergency listing of the Tricolored Blackbird (agelaius tricolor) under the California Endangered Species Act at the Commission’s regular meeting on December 3, 2014. The Center for Biological Diversity filed the petition to list the Tricolored Blackbird with the Fish and Game Commission on October 8, 2014. The petition included a request for emergency action to protect the species.
The petition describes the Tricolored Blackbird as a nesting passerine largely endemic to California. The vast majority of the population occurs in the Central Valley and surrounding foothills. This bird is unique due to its formation of large nesting colonies (the largest of any North American passerine since the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon). A single colony site may include thousands of breeding pairs. The bird’s inclination to form vast nesting colonies makes the species particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and human interference causing mass reproductive failures for the season. For example, large colonies will attempt to nest on active agricultural lands, and eggs and nests are then destroyed during harvest or weed abatement activities.
Audubon California, which supported the listing, cited a survey completed in the summer of 2014 which showed a 44 percent decline in the population of Tricolored Blackbirds since 2011. Over the last six years, the population has dropped 64 percent, to historic low numbers. The Commission found this and other evidence presented in the emergency petition compelling. The emergency petition allows six months of protection for the bird, at which time the emergency listing may be renewed for another six months. The Commission may consider a formal listing petition during this time.
The emergency petition and comment letters are available on the Commission’s website here.