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Natural Resource Ecology and Management

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Published Version

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The Condor





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The Tricolored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), almost entirely restricted to California, USA, has recently been proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Tricolored Blackbirds historically nested in wetlands, but a large proportion of the population now nests in agricultural grain fields where the crop is ready to harvest before the young have fledged. Since 1991, federal agencies have paid farmers to delay harvesting in an effort to increase nesting productivity. However, the relative nesting success of Tricolored Blackbirds breeding in agricultural fields versus wetlands is unknown. Our objectives were to estimate daily survival rate (DSR) of nests, identify habitat covariates that influence nest survival, and estimate the number of young produced per nest. During 2011–2012, we monitored 1,323 Tricolored Blackbird nests in 12 colonies using small temperature data loggers. We modeled DSR using Program RMark with combinations of the following variables: site, habitat type, nest initiation date, nest height, water depth, nest density, colony population size, year, and the proportion of nearby nests that failed. Nest survival varied greatly (range: 0.024–0.719) but was not explained by habitat type. Nest height and nest density were positively associated with DSR. DSR was lowest midway through the breeding season and declined with colony population size. Number of young produced per nest varied by site, was lowest in intermediate-sized colonies of 1,000–5,000 birds, and was highest in 2011. DSR and number of young fledged per nest were similar in agricultural fields and in wetlands. Our results suggest that Tricolored Blackbirds benefit from policies that allow them to complete their nesting cycle in agricultural fields.


This article is published as Weintraub, Kelly, T. Luke George, and Stephen J. Dinsmore. "Nest survival of Tricolored Blackbirds in California's Central Valley." The Condor 118, no. 4 (2016): 850-861. Doi: 10.1650/CONDOR-16-56.1.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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