Tricolored blackbirds can be notoriously difficult to find if you do not know where to look. This is due primarily to their gregarious nature, which creates large gaps where no tricolors occur punctuated by large, dense flocks consisting of hundreds, thousands, or even, during the breeding season, tens of thousands of birds. Here we provide some suggestions for those who have never seen tricolors or for those who would like to observe them in new locations or at different times of the year. If you are patient and seek tricolors in the right locations at the right time of year, you may be rewarded by seeing (and hearing) many thousands of birds. We only consider California, where over 99% of tricolors occur.
The tricolor's breeding season extends from mid-March through May from southern California to the northern San Joaquin Valley and from mid-May through July in the Sacramento Valley.
The tricolor is difficult to find in southern California at all times of the year due to the severe reduction in its abundance over the past century. Once the most abundant bird species in southern California, the tricolor is now found in only a few locations and the entire southern California population segment numbered fewer than 5,000 birds in 2010.
The tricolor is confined to numerous large breeding colonies during the breeding season in the Central Valley. Many of these occur on private property and access is limited. The following list provides sites where breeding tricolors may be observed during a typical year and where observations may be made from public roads or on protected areas.
Tricolors are nomadic during the non-breeding season, so it is not possible to provide specific locations where flocks of birds may be seen. In most cases, tricolors will occur in multi-species foraging and roosting flocks with several other species of blackbirds, including Brewer's, red-winged, and yellow-headed, as well as European starlings. Daytime foraging flocks frequently occur in association with livestock, and winter roosts, such as that near Sherman Island, occur in wetlands or in other emergent vegetation.