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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Tricolored Blackbird -- Agelaius tricolor

RANGE: Breeds from southern Oregon east of the coast range south through interior California along the Pacific Coast from central California to northwest Baja California. Resident from northern California south throughout breeding range and adjacent agricultural areas. Some northern birds are migratory.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Commonly breeds in freshwater marshes of cattail, tule, bulrush, and sage. Roosts in the strips along marshes between rice fields. Feeds and roosts in dense flocks, ranging from 4 to over 20,000 in a colony, throughout the year. In winter, moves through marshes, open cultivated lands, and pastures.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Cattail or tule marshes.

NEST: Builds nest of cattails, sedges, grasses, or other aquatic vegetation gathered from the surface or in shallow water, and attached to cattails or twigs in shrubs and blackberry thickets, usually near water. Prefers live emergent vegetation for nesting.

FOOD: Gleans food from the ground and low vegetation; eats insects, spiders, and occasionally small tadpoles and snails. In winter, eats rice and a variety of grain crops.

REFERENCES: Payne 1969.

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