Tricolored Blackbird is a blackbird distinguished from the more common red-winged blackbird by white rather than yellow median wing coverts, which form a red and white shoulder patch. The species is largely restricted to California, with the majority of the breeding populations occurring in the Central Valley (Beedy and Hamilton 1999). Tricolored Blackbirds breed in large colonies, primarily in cattail marshes and Himalayan blackberry brambles (Beedy and Hamilton 1999). During the breeding season, they tend to forage within three miles of their breeding colonies (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).
Their preferred foraging habitats include ricelands, alfalfa fields, irrigated pastures, grain fields, annual grasslands, and cattle feedlots and dairies (Beedy 2008). Large flocks of hundreds or thousands are not uncommon during winter in rice fields, where they forage on waste grain, insects (especially grasshoppers), clams, snails, and weed seeds such as water grass (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).
The Tricolored Blackbird is on the California Bird Species of Special Concern Priority 2 list, and is a federal species of conservation concern (USFWS 2008), primarily because of the loss and degradation of habitat from human activities.
Tricolored Blackbird: Leslie Morris