An Audubon presentation on the dwindling population of Tricolored Blackbirds will be held 7 p.m., Nov. 12, at the New Community United Methodist Church on Road 426. This free event is open to the public; donations to defray costs are appreciated.
Tricolored Blackbirds, a species almost exclusive to California, once numbered in the millions, nesting in immense colonies that historically embraced as many as 200,000 nests, the largest breeding colonies of any North American land bird. These colonies produced staggering numbers of young birds in good reproductive years, but close proximity made them vulnerable to catastrophic nesting failures that could decimate their population by thousands of birds when their habitat and feeding areas were compromised.
Today, Tricolored Blackbirds, similar in appearance to the more familiar and widespread Red-winged Blackbirds, are in trouble, their population having plummeted dramatically within the past several years. A survey released in 2014, led by UC Davis in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Audubon California, estimated a total remaining population of 145,000 birds, a drop of 64% since 2008 and 44% just in the past three years.
Yosemite Area Audubon Society President Lowell Young, a longtime birder, realized his passion for Tricolored Blackbirds 11 years ago when he began participating in Merced County surveys of their population. Seven years later, he and his survey team finally saw their first tricolored colony in the survey area—a flock of at least 60,000 birds, he estimates, and he says, “I will never forget the thrill of seeing so many birds at one time.”
The sad post mortem to Young’s story transformed his passion for watching them into action to save them. “What happened to that colony of birds and several other events that I experienced during that period of time got my dander up,” he laments.
Young will relate that story in describing ACTBAT, a project he launched last year to help avert this species’ extinction, in a slide talk, “ACTBAT: Working Together to Save a Species,” at the November program of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society.
His presentation will also highlight the status of local populations, where to find them, their ecological importance and what people can do - and are doing - to preserve them.
YAAS will also lead a Tuesday Trek field trip Tuesday, Nov. 17, to the Santa Fe Grade in Merced County. Participants should meet at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds at 7:30 a.m. to carpool. The trip is free and the public welcome. Visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional details.
Details: (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547, or visit yosemiteaudubon.org.