Back in the 1930s, there were 3 million of the stunning birds streaking across the skies, but now the tricolored blackbird is on its way to the Endangered Species Act due to the dramatic decline in their population. The notion has been proposed many times, and approved only once.
The tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) are part of the largest breeding colonies of North America, with 99% of their population found within the wetlands and grasslands of California. However, their numbers are falling worryingly fast, and the Center for Biological Diversity are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place it under their protection.
There are currently nine species put up for consideration of enlisting on the Endangered Species Act, and the tricolored blackbirds are among them after a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, identified a 44% decline since 2011.
The beautiful black birds were once populous around California, with incredibly vast flocks and stunning views of their colonies nearly darkening the skies above when they took flight. One biologist in the 1930s had reported witnessing a flock of 1 million bird in the Sacramento Valley, but those numbers are far, far away from the reality today.
The population of tricolored blackbirds have fallen by 50% between 1930 and 1970, with another 50% from that population continuing between 1994 and 2000. In fact, in 2008, there were only 395,000 left after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Fish and Game Commission refused to protect them in 2004.
Their numbers continued to fall, reaching 295,000 in 2011, and a number of 145,000 in 2014, when it was petitioned again to place them under the list of endangered species. That time, in December 2014, they were accepted as part of the Endangered Species Act, but now their protection has come to an end in June 2015.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for them once more in February, and another in August, informing the institution of their continued decline due to the disappearing of wetlands and grasslands that pose as their natural environment.
With their habitat destroyed by the advancement of urban areas and agricultural development, the tricolored blackbirds have moved their nests around crops, more commonly dairy silage fields where farmers grow food for cows.
However, harvest coincides with the bird’s nesting season, which leaves most of the hatchlings and eggs destroyed before they have a chance at life while the fields are plowed.
Their previous listing has made it illegal for farmer to destroy their nests, and instead find alternative means to remove them before harvest, but their protection expired and now the tricolored blackbirds are waiting to be enlisted as endangered once more before their population plummets further.
Image source: wikipedia.org