Permanent Loss of High Priority Site in Merced County

Date: 
January 7, 2014
Owens Creek Before (May 2006)
Owens Creek After (January 2014)

Owens Creek, a tricolored blackbird breeding location in eastern Merced County, at the NW corner of Cunningham Road and Childs Avenue, was converted to an orchard in autumn, 2013, likely permanently eliminating this as a breeding location. Local landowners had informed U.C. Davis ecologist Dr. Bob Meese that upwards of 50,000 birds or more had been breeding there consistently since at least the 1960's and breeding had continued until 2011, when the landowners changed the management to conditions unfavorable to tricolor breeding. Tricolors had within the past decade been breeding in Merced County in increasing numbers, so the loss of this important site, which is surrounded by open pasture and has a dairy nearby and a creek running through it, is a setback for conservation efforts and reduces the number of breeding locations that are surrounded by productive foraging habitats.