This website provides information on the tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), a near-endemic California passerine and the most colonial songbird in North America. We seek to develop a site with content appropriate for the largest audience, with basic natural history and conservation information, access to reports, images and videos, links to tricolors in the news, summaries of past and current research and monitoring efforts, and data entry capability for participants in the triennial tricolored blackbird survey (an every three year volunteer effort to estimate the number of tricolors in California) and persons observing color-banded tricolors.

Tricolored Blackbird Research in Monterey County


Chris Wilson, the Director of Conservation Science at the Santa Lucia Conservancy, is placing radio transmitters on breeding tricolored blackbirds on the Santa Lucia Preserve, a private reserve in Monterey County. His research, which started in May, 2012 has found that tricolors on the preserve forage extensively upon the caterpillars of oak moths (Phryganidia californica) high in oak trees, which may be the first time that arboreal foraging has been documented in the species. His work has also shown that breeding tricolors may suddenly cease breeding and move to a different nearby breeding colony. Chris will continue his research in 2013.

Catte Egret Predation on Tricolored Blackbirds Summarized in New Publication


A report by U.C. Davis ecologist Bob Meese in the spring, 2012 issue of California Fish and Game summarizes the effects of cattle egret predation on tricolored blackbird breeding colonies. Cattle egrets, which have only relatively recently expanded their range into California, have since 2006 been severely reducing the reproductive success of tricolor colonies within the foraging range of their rookery in Tulare County. This new report documents the impacts of cattle egret predation from 2006 through 2011 and considers the conservation implications of continued losses of tricolor productivity to cattle egret predation.

Nest Survival of Tricolored Blackbirds in California’s San Joaquin Valley 2011 Annual Report


Results of Kelly Weintraub's 2011 field season in the Tulare Basin determining the nesting success rates of Tricolored Blackbird colonies in various nesting substrates. This report was prepared for the Fish and Wildlife Service as an annual report.

Methodology, results, and discussion of Tricolored Blackbird nesting success are included.

Results of the 2011 Statewide Survey


The results of the 2011 Statewide Survey have been released by Audubon California's Keiller Kyle, the survey coordinator.

The results show a dramatic drop in the number of tricolors statewide, from approximately 395,000 in 2008 to about 259,000 this year, a greater than 33% decrease, this despite an increase in the number of sites visited and an immense effort by 100 survey participants.

The results of this year's survey are summarized in a report from Kyle and Rodd Kelsey, the 2008 Statewide Survey coordinator. Download the report from the portal.

We thank the many volunteer observers for their dedication and hard work in helping to monitor the abundance, distribution, and breeding habitats utilized by the tricolor - California's blackbird.

Recent Enhancements to the Portal


Information for the Environment (ICE) staff at the University of California, Davis has recently upgraded the Tricolored Blackbird Portal to facilitate access to data, provide greater data input functionality, and to support the 2011 Statewide Survey and all future statewide surveys.

These enhancements include:

  • An improved menu structure that allows easier access to data and facilitates data input
  • Structural changes to the underlying database to accommodate data from multiple statewide surveys
  • Online help files to provide guidance to new Portal users
  • Links to provide data downloads in csv and xls file formats
  • A share button that enables users to recommend the Portal to numerous social networking sites
  • Improvements to the image gallery that make it easier to add photos and digital imagery
  • A link on the Contents Menu to a page for suggestions on where to see tricolors.

2011 Statewide Survey


Audubun, CA

The 2011 Tricolored Blackbird Statewide Survey has arrived!!!

The 2011 statewide survey runs from Friday, April 15th through Sunday, April 17th.

Participants in the 2011 Statewide Survey should click here ( to obtain additional information and to download survey materials.

We are seeking additional participants to survey both historical colony locations as well as to survey in appropriate regions for new, previously undocumented colony locations and to estimate the number of birds at occupied sites. No prior experience is necessary and any level of commitment, big or small, is welcome to help to make this year's survey as complete as possible.

To volunteer for this year's statewide survey, contact Keiller Kyle at kkyle (at) audubon (dot) org.

New Report Documents Decline of Southern California Population Segment


A new report, "Recent History and Current Status of the Tricolored Blackbird in Southern California", prepared by the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan Biological Monitoring Program, has just been released. The report reviews the annual abundance of breeding tricolors in southern California since 1994 and provides an update on the status of the species.

The report documents the alarming decline of tricolor abundance in southern California since 1997 and reveals the importance of Riverside County to tricolors in the entire southern California region.

The report provides suggestions for management actions that may help to reverse the decline and enhance the prospects for the persistence of the species in southern California.

Cattle egrets decimating tricolors

Cattle Egret predation

In 2006, fewer than 30 cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) were observed for the first time preying upon the contents of nests of tricolored blackbirds in a single colony in Tulare County. During March and April, 2010, three large (> 30,000 birds each) tricolor colonies in Tulare County suffered near-total productivity losses to predation by cattle egrets, where up to 220 cattle egrets were consistently seen in tricolor colonies.

Thus, in only four years the cattle egret has become perhaps the tricolor's most serious threat to survival, and if the scope of cattle egret predation should increase beyond Tulare County (so recently a population source but now a population sink) , the tricolor could be in serious jeopardy. Cattle egrets are common, and increasing in abundance, throughout much of the Central Valley, but to date they have been documented to prey upon tricolors only in Tulare County.

Nearly 48,000 Tricolors Banded in 5 Years


Tricolored blackbirds are being banded as part of a statewide effort to identify and document movement patterns and fidelity to breeding colonies. The banding of tricolors began in 2007 and has continued annually, with over 47,800 tricolors banded by autumn, 2011. Thus far, all birds have been banded during the breeding season at sites adjacent to breeding colonies.

The recapture of banded birds has demonstrated strong fidelity to breeding sites and a high degree of colony cohesion, with birds breeding together at one location tending to move as a group to breed together again at a different location. Previously-banded birds tend to be recaptured in groups, a phenomenon that requires an explanation while suggesting that birds are not only breeding site faithful, but that breeding birds may recreate spatial relationships established in one location at subsequent breeding colonies.

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