eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 55, No. 1
March 2024
Western Field Ornithologists

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First Record of Tricolored Blackbirds in Idaho
Peter J. Olsoy and Katie J. Sorenson

ABSTRACT: Over 99% of Tricolored Blackbirds (Agelaius tricolor) occur in California. However, small populations persist in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Baja California. Loss of wetlands that historically served as foraging and breeding habitat has led to their increasing use of agricultural landscapes including silage fields and cattle feedlots. Here we provide the first documentation of the Tricolored Blackbird in Idaho (26 March–13 May and 3 November–16 December 2023), of up to 30 birds observed at five different locations associated with cattle feedlots, each 10–15 km apart, in Payette and Gem counties. Seven observations included recordings of vocalizations (3-23 April and 14 December 2023), largely coinciding with the final observations at each location, presumably before dispersal to breeding grounds. We consider three hypotheses to explain the apparently sudden occurrence of these birds, including their return to some of the same sites in November 2023: (1) a continued pattern of range expansion due to climate change; (2) an undetected long-term population due to low survey effort; or (3) a large-scale movement in response to flooding and extreme weather in the traditional range. We encourage continued monitoring and surveying of these locations in the coming years and surveying for both new wintering locations and for evidence of the Tricolored Blackbird breeding in Idaho.

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