Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in English:
red-and-white-shouldered blackbird, tricolored blackbird, tricolored oriole, tricolored redwing, Tricoloured Blackbird
Common Names in French:
Carouge de Californie
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Japanese:
Common Names in Spanish:
The tricolored blackbird forms the largest colonies of any North
bird. This behavior results in specific habitat
requirements. Breeding colonies may attract thousands of birds to
a single site. These colonies require nearby water, a suitable nesting
substrate, and open-range foraging
habitat of natural grassland,
woodland, or agricultural cropland. In winter, they often form single-species,
and sometimes single-sex, flocks, but they also flock with other
blackbird species. They often change their nesting locations from
year to year. These changes may be an adaptation to exploit
changing environments in ephemeral
habitats, providing secure nesting
sites and plentiful insect food supplies (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).
The tricolored blackbird breeds near fresh water , preferably in emergent wetland with tall, dense cattails or tules, but also in thickets of willow, blackberry, wild rose, tall herbs and forages in grassland and cropland habitats (Ziener et al. 1990). The species seeks cover for roosting in emergent wetland vegetation, especially cattails and tules, and also in trees and shrubs (Zeiner et al. 1990). Although true marsh habitat with its growth of cattails and tules is favored, marshes are not necessary for the nesting of the species (Neff 1937). Within the Central Valley of California, the tricolored colonies are generally found in the rice lands of the Sacramento Valley and pasture lands of the lower Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley. The colonies outside the Central Valley are in several different habitat types including being surrounded by chaparral covered hills which may extend for miles , surrounded by orchard, adjacent to salt marsh, or surrounded by sagebrush-grasslands (Dehaven et al. 1975).
Vegetation: freshwater marshes • Foraging Strata: Midstory • Center of Abundance: Lower subtropical: lowlands, lower than 500 m.; subtropics. • Sensitivity to Disturbance: Low
Typically found in a lake at a mean distance from sea level of 401 meters (1,314 feet).
It is a lowland species, but has bred to 1,300 m
in the Klamath area
(Oregon) and along the west side of the Sierras2.
marshes with tall emergent vegetation
(especially thickets of non-native
Rubus discolor), and in silage
in agricultural areas, particularly where livestock are
present and grass
is short, and shows a preference for roosting in
marshes3. An opportunistic
forager, the species
takes any locally abundant insect including grasshoppers (Orthoptera),
beetles and weevils (Coleoptera), caddis fly larvae (Trichoptera),
moth and butterfly larvae (Lepidoptera), dragonfly larvae (Odonata),
and lakeshore midges (Diptera), as well as grains, snails, and small
clams2. Breeding typically occurs in April-July,
when individuals congregate
to form massive breeding colonies that
are larger than those of any other extant
North American landbird
following the extinction
of the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius1.
Reproductive success is significantly higher in non-native upland
vegetation (primarily Himalayan blackberry) than it is in native
wetland vegetation (cattail Typha spp. and bulrush
), its predominant
historic breeding habitat1.
In silage fields, which hold
a significant proportion of the breeding
population (17% in 2000), reproductive success can be disastrously
low, as harvesting can result in the loss of entire colonies with
tens of thousands of nests1. Although it can be
found throughout the breeding range during winter, the species is
nevertheless partly migratory, with large numbers of birds being
seen along the central Californian coast in the winter even though
in this area in the summer3.
List of Habitats:
- 5 Wetlands (inland)
- 5.4 Wetlands (inland) - Bogs , Marshes, Swamps , Fens , Peatlands
- 14 Artificial/Terrestrial
- 14.1 Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land [more info]
In California, studies summarized by Skorupa et al. (1980), animal matter, mostly insects and spiders, made up 86-91% of the nestling and fledgling diet , and 28-96% of the adult diet in spring and summer. Insect consumption in the Sacramento Valley reached a peak of 39% in summer (Crase and DeHaven 1978). Seeds and cultivated grains, such as rice and oats, are other major foods, and compose most of fall and winter diet (Martin et al. 1961). The tricolored blackbird forages on the ground in croplands, grassy fields , flooded land , irrigated pastures, lightly grazed rangelands, dry seasonal pools , mowed alfalfa fields, feedlots, dairies, and along edges of ponds (Zeiner et al. 1990; Beedy and Hamilton 1999).
The tricolored blackbird usually nests
in dense cattails or tules;
also nests in thickets of willow, blackberry, wild rose, tall herbs
(Neff 1937). In the Sacramento Valley, almost 93 percent of the nesting
locations were located in freshwater
marshes dominated by cattails
or bulrushes (Neff 1937). During the more recent years, 53 percent
of colonies reported in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys were
in cattails and bulrushes (DeHaven et al.
1975). In addition to the
freshwater marsh habitat
, nests may be located in a variety of wetland
vegetation including blackberries, grainfields, giant
, safflower, stinging
nettles, willow scrub
barley, and orchards (Beedy et al. 1991). Some small breeding colonies
may be present at private and public lakes
, and parks
that may be located near shopping centers, subdivisions and other
urban development (Beedy and Hamilton 1999). In general, the characteristics
of the nesting locations include: accessible water; protected nesting
sites (either flooded or surrounded by thorny or spiny
and suitable foraging
area providing adequate insect prey
a few kilometers of the nesting colony
(Beedy and Hamilton 1999).
The nest is usually located a few feet over, or near, fresh water ; also may be hidden on ground among low vegetation. The tricolored blackbird builds its nest of mud and plant materials (Ziener et al. 1990). It is a highly colonial species; the nesting area must be large enough to support a minimum colony of about 50 pairs (Grinnell and Miller 1944). The usual breeding season is mid-April into late July (Payne 1969). Orians (1960) also reported active breeding in October and November in Sacramento Valley, although nesting success was low. Individual pairs in breeding colonies may initiate nesting synchronously. Even in colonies of up to 50,000 to 100,000 nests, all first eggs may be laid within one week (Orians 1961). The species is polygynous ; each male may have several mates nesting in his small territory (Orians 1961). Tricolored blackbirds are likely itinerant breeders: in April, all observed tricolored blackbirds were in the vicinity of the breeding colonies then in May and June, populations decline in one area and rise in another as breeding birds move to new breeding areas (Hamilton 1998).
The clutch size is typically three to four eggs with clutches of two and five eggs observed occasionally (Emlen 1941). The first egg is usually laid the day after the nest is completed, occasionally before; and one egg is laid per day for one to five days (Emlen 1941). They may raise two broods per year (Terres 1980). Incubation lasts about 11 days; the altricial young are tended by the female or by both parents (Lack and Emlen 1939). The young leave the nest at about 13 days (Zeiner et al. 1990). The species probably breeds first at one year (Harrison 1978).
Dispersal : The tricolored blackbird has frequently been reported to have wholesale desertions of a nesting colony with no obvious destruction or predation of eggs (Lack and Emlen 1939). The abandonment leads to a departure of the entire colony, sometimes to an unknown area of unknown distance (Lack and Emlen 1939).
- Breeding Habitat: Wetland-open water
- Nest Location: Ground-low nesting
- Nest Type: Open-cup
- Clutch Size: 4
- Length of Incubation: 11-13 days
- Days to Fledge : 11-14
- Number of Broods: 2
Daily Activity: Yearlong, diurnal
activity (Zeiner et al.
Survival: Although percent nesting success and survival of young has not been determined, the tricolored blackbird has been documented to suffer widespread nest failure, frequently of the entire colony with abandonment of nests with eggs or nestlings (Orians 1961). Abandonment may occur due to a change in the food supply in the area due to drought or timing of nesting (Orians 1961).
Socio-Spatial Behavior: Nest may be located up to 6.4 km (4 mi ) from foraging areas (Orians 1961). Breeders in Colusa and Yuba counties traveled as far as 6.4 km (4 mi) from nest to feed ; in each of 2 colonies, members foraged over more than 78 km (80 mi) (Orians 1961). The breeding territory, which includes only the vicinity of nest, is usually about 3.3 m (85 ft ), or less, in dense vegetation, but may be larger in less suitable cover (Orians 1961).
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Linnaeus, 1758
- Gauthier, 1986
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Pycraft, 1900
- Sibley et al., 1988
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- Suborder: Passeres () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758) C. Linnaeus, 1766
- Order: Passeriformes () - C. Linnaeus, 1758
- Superorder: Passerimorphae () - Sibley et al., 1988
- Cohort: Neognathae () - Pycraft, 1900
- Infraclass: Aves () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Subclass: Avialae () - Gauthier, 1986
- Class: Aves () - Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Agelaius tricolor (Audubon, 1837)
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 11-Oct-2007
The male Red-winged Blackbird can be told from the male Tricolored
Blackbird by its yellowish, not white, border to the red shoulder
patch. Females are quite similar but Tricoloreds typically have darker
bellies. Other species of blackbirds lack the red shoulder patch
of the male and the streaked underparts of the female.
Study of the mitochondrial DNA (cytochrome b) sequences suggested that the nine Agelaius species are a polyphyletic assemblage of ecologically similar species (Lanyon 1994). Red-winged and tricolored blackbirds were found to be sister taxa and in turn these species are sister to the tawny-shouldered blackbird and yellow-shouldered blackbird found in the Caribbean.
Members of the genus Agelaius
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 19 species and subspecies in this genus:
A. assimilis (Red-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. cyanopus (Unicoloured Blackbird) · A. cyanopus cyanopus (Unicoloured Blackbird) · A. flavus (Saffron-Cowled Blackbird) · A. humeralis (Tawny-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. humeralis humeralis (Tawny-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. icterocephalus (Yellow-Hooded Blackbird) · A. icterocephalus icterocephalus (Yellow-Hooded Blackbird) · A. phoeniceus (Red-And-Buff-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. phoeniceus arctolegus (Red-Winged Blackbird) · A. phoeniceus phoeniceus (Red-Winged Blackbird) · A. ruficapillus (Chestnut-Capped Blackbird) · A. ruficapillus ruficapillus (Chestnut-Capped Blackbird) · A. thilius (Yellow-Winged Blackbird) · A. thilius thilius (Yellow-Winged Blackbird) · A. tricolor (Red-And-White-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. xanthomus (Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. xanthomus xanthomus (Yellow-Shouldered Blackbird) · A. xanthophthalmus (Yellow-Eyed Blackbird)
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- Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Accessed February 29, 2008. http://www.gbif.org Mediated distribution data from 8 providers.
- Hines, J. E., Gregory Gough, J. R. Sauer, et al. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
- IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. . Downloaded on January 28, 2012.
- Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, Understanding the Plants and Animals of Western Riverside County MSHCP University of California, Berkeley and Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside.
- Parker III, T.A., D.F. Stotz, and J.W. Fitzpatrick, "Ecological and Distributional Databases for Neotropical Birds," in Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation, by D.F. Stotz, T.A. Parker III, J.W. Fitzpatrick, and D.K. Moskovits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). ISBN 0-226-64676-9.
- Peterson, Alan P. Zoological Nomenclature Resource. Accessed June 19, 2009.
- Ruggiero M., Gordon D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Nicolson D. (2011). The Catalogue of Life Taxonomic Classification, Edition 2, Part A. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). DVD; Species 2000: Reading, UK.
- Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 - 2004. Version 2005.2. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
- Sauer, J. R., S. Schwartz, and B. Hoover. 1996. The Christmas Bird Count Home Page. Version 95.1. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 29, 2008:
- Avian Knowledge Network: eBird
- Avian Knowledge Network: Great Backyard Bird Count
- Avian Knowledge Network: Project FeederWatch
- Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Birds (Aves)
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology: Terrestrial vertebrate specimens
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Santa Barbara Musem of Natural History
- UCLA-Dickey Bird Collection (UCLA-Dickey): Bird specimens
- UNIBIO, IBUNAM: CNAV/Coleccion Nacional de Aves
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ): Bird specimens
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 8019
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-179060
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 13841305
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 179060
- IUCN ID: 189282
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ABPBXB0020
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 13988
- Standard Deviation = 519.500 based on 1,736 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
- BirdLife International 2008. Agelaius tricolor. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 January 2012. [back]