Update on Tricolored Blackbird colony in distress

April 4th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

To clarify, we did succeed in raising $40,000 (woohoo!) but we still don’t know how much it will ultimately cost to save this colony. We are also making agreements with other farmers who have colonies. All funds raised will go to Tricolored Blackbird conservation. We hope to know more soon. Thank you again for your support.


We sent the word out that we needed to save a Tricolored Blackbird colony that contained a quarter of the bird’s global population. Boy, was that message heard loud and clear. We are so impressed by the traction this story has. Here is an update on the situation from our Working Lands Program:

Roughly 24 hours ago, we sent an appeal to you requesting immediate assistance to save a Tricolored Blackbird colony at risk of being harvested. Thank you so much for responding and for supporting Tricolored Blackbirds. The outpour of donations and encouragement has been overwhelming and inspiring! When bird lovers like you get together, you really can make the world a better place for birds.

I have some good news to share, the dairyman has agreed to delay his harvest another week in order for all parties to work out an agreement. In other words- we have nearly saved this colony (but we are not done yet!). But your involvement will be felt beyond this colony. California and Federal decision makers now know that when Audubon gets involved they need to listen. Your involvement today will mean Audubon can save more birds tomorrow. 

This emergency hasn’t distracted us from the goals of our Tricolored Blackbird conservation plan. We are still engaging other farmers to help save additional colonies as the breeding season begins; we are still raising money to create a fund that can be on-hand for the next emergency; and we are still trying to prevent the birds from using agriculture by creating natural wetland habitat. We will keep you updated on our efforts to save this bird.

Together we can save this bird from extinction.

Thank you for being a bird hero today!

Meghan Hertel
Working Lands Program Director


Categories: Bird conservation · Tricolored Blackbird · Working lands conservation

10 Comments so far ↓

  • Sunil Gopalan

    I understand that answers to questions like “How much will it take to save all the Tricolored Blackbirds in the San Joaquin Valley?” are difficult to answer with any precision. However I would point out that the original funding appeal did not set out to accomplish that.

    It set out to address a single colony of approx 50,000 birds in a single field – and the money was to go towards a single farmer to offset the expense of delaying that harvest. Further, it set a very specific target amount and deadline to accomplish that very specific issue. So which part of that equation has changed?

    The bigger picture is a very noble one, but Audubon really has to be up front about what they are shooting for. If it is difficult to be specific about numbers, no specific numbers should have been provided in the appeal. The frustration is quite understandable and easily rectified.

  • Alison Sheehey

    While it is frustrating to not know how much was raised. Ultimately, the answer in a drought year with little native habitat for Tricolored Blackbirds to nest in and with the population continuing to drop, the answer on how much it is going to cost to save the birds until the San Joaquin Valley has enough water for native habitat is going to be an upwardly moving target.
    Each farmer is dealt with separately. Some are really wonderful and appreciate nature but absolutely have to feed their dairy cows. You donations go to buying forage that supplies the right nutrients for the cows. With the drought affecting how much hay has been planted and a lot of it going towards cattle where grazing land is looking pretty bleak, the answer is hay and other forage crops are getting top dollar right now.
    So, if the Tricolored Blackbirds just laid their eggs in a field that was about to be harvested, it takes up to 5 days to lay the eggs, 11 days to incubate, another 14 to fledge, so it can be 30 days before harvest, which is an awful lot of expensive hay.
    Did we all give enough? That is the 64,000 dollar question, but Audubon is not being vague, they just can’t give a specific answer because they don’t have an answer. Give them time. Tricolored Blackbirds will be saved by all of our efforts, but how many will not be known until all contracts are signed and birds are fledged.

  • Sunil Gopalan

    Why do we not know how much it will take to save the colony? The original appeal stated a specific amount for saving the 50,000 birds. Why has that become a moving target?

  • Hayden Oliver

    This is great news! It’s fantastic to hear about successful conservation- and saving 1/4 of a species in one effort is a big win for the birds.

  • Daniela Ogden

    To clarify, we did raise the $40,000 (woohoo!) but we still don’t know how much it will ultimately cost to save this colony. We are also making agreements with other farmers who have colonies. All funds raised will go to Tricolored Blackbird conservation. We hope to have another update on Monday. Thank you again for your support.

  • Maria

    I agree. Read between the lines, and this sounds like you have succeeded in raising the money, and in saving the birds, but are not saying so because you want to raise more money. It sounds dishonest. Please state clearly how much money was raised.

  • Chelsea B

    I’d love to contribute to this campaign–but not if you are purposefully not disclosing the amount that has been raised so far.

    It *looks* like you met the goal and think no one will contribute if you say so. Which makes me *feel* pretty untrusted by Audubon.

  • Þór Kvöldálfur

    Yes, please, what is the score?

  • Martha Milne

    I’m so very glad progress was made for the birds. Did we raise the $40,000? Is there more needed?

  • Becky Waller Bausman

    I was one of the donors to this campaign. It’s frustrating that the answer is so vague. Did we raise the $40K or not? Did we raise ten times that? Did we not even come close?