California’s Tricolored Blackbirds are found mainly in the southern San Joaquin Valley and often nest in fields where dairy farmers grow feed.
Come harvest time, nestlings are often plowed under. That, combined with wetland loss and drought, has led to a population decline of 44-percent since 2011.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will give $1.1 million to Audubon California and dairy farmers to help save the bird.
Farmers who agree to delay harvest will get financial help.
“One of the unknowns that we have is how long they’re actually going to have to delay the harvest," says Alan Forkey, assistant state conservationist for programs at NRCS. "Sometimes it may be a couple of weeks, but that could be critical in the survival of the birds," he says. Forkey says it could be even longer. "It could be up to a month in which case they could lose a much higher percentage of the value of their crop,” he says.
Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California, says some of the money will be used to create habitat safely off of farms for the birds, through wetland easements.
“There’s this opportunity right now with this partnership with NRCS and dairy farmers to save a bird from extinction," says McCormack. "So let’s go down in history as having saved it as opposed to having lost it.”
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife approved an emergency listing for the Tricolored Blackbird under the Endangered Species Act last year.