Living Bird Magazine
Tricolored BlackbirdAgelaius tricolor
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Icteridae
In California's Central Valley another blackbird with red shoulder patches congregates in marshes and croplands, but it's the Tricolored Blackbird—just as dazzling as the Red-winged Blackbird, but much rarer. Gregarious and noisy males flaunt their brilliant red shoulders, much like their more common cousin, but they have a white line below the shoulder and a buzzy, almost catlike song. Tricolored Blackbirds are declining due to extensive wetland loss and agricultural practices in the farm fields where they now nest.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Agricultural areas in California's Central Valley are among the best places to go looking for Tricolored Blackbirds. You might need to visit a few areas before you find them, but when you do find a flock, there won't be a shortage of birds. During summer look for them along roads passing through farmlands and wetlands. Good places to check in California include Kern National Wildlife Refuge, Little Panoche Road in Fresno County, Lurline Road in Colusa County, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, and Los Banos Wildlife Area. Elsewhere, eBird maps can help you zero in on recent sightings. Tricolored Blackbirds move around a lot during the nonbreeding season and can be harder to track down. Try looking for them in or near dairy farms and feedlots.
- Tordo Tricolor (Spanish)
- Carouge de Californie (French)
Tricolored Blackbirds aren't likely to come to a bird feeder in urban areas, but if you live in rural areas near agricultural fields they might. You can also try putting out corn and other grains on the ground to entice them to your yard.
- Cool Facts
- To say that Tricolored Blackbirds are social birds might be an understatement. Of all passerines in North America, they form the largest breeding colonies. In the 1930s one colony covered almost 59 acres and contained around 300,000 birds—about as many as are in the entire present-day population.
- Though they still form large colonies, the number of Tricolored Blackbirds has declined dramatically since the 1930s. Research conducted in the 1930s estimated that there were around 2–3 million Tricolored Blackbirds, but now researchers estimate that there are only around 300,000.
- Tricolored Blackbirds are not homebodies, they routinely fly up to 3 miles from their breeding sites to find areas rich with food.
- Parents use a clever tactic to encourage their young to leave the nesting colony. They fly to the nest with food, but instead of giving it to their young immediately, they fly away with it, encouraging the youngsters to follow.