California Drought Hurts Tricolored Blackbird

Experts say the drought could force a rare California bird onto the endangered species list.

The Fresno Bee Reports the water shortage may force the tricolored blackbird to nest on farmland instead of dry sanctuaries.

But Central Valley farmers are expected to harvest as early as possible this year, because feed and water prices are skyrocketing. That could cause the birds to die in large numbers.

In the 1930's, there were 3 million blackbirds in California. That has dwindled to about 250,000 today.

Most of the world's tricolored blackbirds live in California, gather in large colonies and prefer to nest in tall reeds with water beneath them, said Garrison Frost of Audubon California. With those spots dry, the birds flock to wheat farms.

Environmentalist and farmers fear the bird will land on Endangered Species Act protection lists if current conditions persist.

Farmers fear a listing will place restrictions on their operations. Environmentalists are concerned a listing will underscore the birds' precarious nature.

"The tricolored blackbird has been on a downward spiral since 2006,'' said researcher Robert Meese of the University of California, Davis. Meese and others fear the birds' population will fall to 100,000 or fewer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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