Protection, Restoration, and Enhancement of Tricolored Blackbird Habitat on Agricultural Lands

Tri-color Blackbirds

PROJECT LEADS: Audubon California, California Farm Bureau, Dairy Cares, and other groups/organizations

TIMELINE: January 2020 to December 2024

OBJECTIVE: To support research that will explore ways to draw tricolored blackbirds to non-dairy habitats or otherwise minimize financial losses to dairy farms.


Found almost exclusively in California, the tricolored blackbird is North America’s most colonial land bird, nesting in very large groups. The nesting season for tricolored blackbirds is about 60 days, often starting as early as February. Fields of forage crops—grown to feed dairy cows—provide an ideal location for the birds to build nests. However, this poses a great challenge for dairy farmers, as the annual nesting period overlaps with harvest season, causing farmers to delay harvests. As a result, crops lose moisture, making feed less nutritious, and in most cases, unusable, leaving farmers struggling to find other sources of feed for their cows. Audubon California has partnered with dairy organizations and conservation groups such as, California Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Cares, and several other farmer-funded groups, to support farmers as they protect the threatened tricolored blackbird species. CDRF joined the alliance in 2020, pledging to support research over the next five years. Research will explore ways to draw the birds to other habitats or otherwise minimize financial losses to dairy farms.