Sampling to estimate population size and detect trends in Tricolored Blackbirds

Central Valley Bird Club Bulletin
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Abstract

The Tricolored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) is a medium-sized passerine that nests in the largest colonies of any North American landbird since the extinction of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) over 100 years ago (Beedy and Hamilton 1999). The species has a restricted range that occurs almost exclusively within California, with only a few hundred birds scattered in small groups in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and northwestern Baja California, Mexico (Beedy and Hamilton 1999). Tricolored Blackbirds are itinerant breeders (i.e., breed more than once per year in different locations) and use a wide variety of nesting substrates (Hamilton 1998), many of which are ephemeral. They are also insect dependent during the breeding season, and reproductive success is strongly correlated with relative insect abundance (Meese 2013). Researchers have noted for decades that Tricolored Blackbird’s insect prey are highly variable in space and time; Payne (1969), for example, described the species as a grasshopper follower because they are preferred food items, and high grasshopper abundance is often associated with high reproductive success (Payne 1969, Meese 2013). Thus, the species’ basic reproductive strategy is tied to rather infrequent periods of relatively high insect abundance in some locations followed by much longer periods of range -wide relatively low insect abundance and poor reproductive success. Of course, anthropogenic factors such as habitat loss and insecticide use may be at least partly responsible for these patterns (Hallman et al. 2014, Airola et al. 2014).

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sampling to estimate population size and detect trends in Tricolored Blackbirds
Series title Central Valley Bird Club Bulletin
Volume 17
Issue 2-4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Central Valley Bird Club
Publisher location Lodi, CA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 6 p.
First page 51
Last page 56