Modesto, Calif., (March 16, 2017) – As fields begin to dry out from this wet winter and you prepare your harvest equipment, or schedule your custom harvester, to harvest your winter forage, the Tricolored Blackbird is also looking for a good place to nest. Hopefully with such a wet winter, the wetlands that the birds naturally prefer will appeal to them and many will choose to nest there instead of in our fields. However, it remains likely that some will still choose to nest in forage fields as they have for some time.
When that happens there is help to recover some of the losses from delayed harvest. If you have been following my articles on the Blackbird you know that it is a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act, and that as a candidate, it has the full protection of a listed species. Recognizing the potential conflict, Western United Dairymen (WUD) has been involved in this issue for well over a decade. Several years back WUD partnered with California Farm Bureau, Dairy Cares, Sustainable Conservation, and Audubon of California to secure a grant from USDA-NRCS to help compensate farmers who decide to delay harvest due to nesting Tricolors. The grant would make payments for the lost feed value from the area where the birds nest. To take advantage of this funding, contact your local NRCS office for more information.
Farm Bureau, working with the groups mentioned above, has once again worked to develop protections for farmers who delay harvest and follow the advice of a qualified biologist in allowing for an area to not be harvested until the birds have fledged. Farmers that follow that advice, and inform the Department of Fish and Wildlife, are eligible for that protection. This is important because penalties for harming the birds are significant and are best to be avoided.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as Audubon of California will be out once again scouting areas where the birds have nested in the past looking for colonies this year. If you have any questions on this issue please give me a call at the WUD office. If you believe you might have Tricolors nesting your forage fields, you should contact NRCS to have their biologist provide a confidential assessment.