On 4 April 2003 I was taken onto the Kesterson Unit of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California to record a colony of Tricolored Blackbirds. The goal was to maximize the haul of recordings in hopes of obtaining one that would entice the blackbirds to nest on Kern National Wildlife Refuge rather than in the grain fields of nearby dairy farms. That summer the Fish and Wildlife Service set out numerous TRBL decoys, and they played my recordings ad nauseum in a beautiful freshwater marsh on the Refuge. It didn't work. The blackbirds ate from the feed troughs of the cows and nested nearby in the grain fields. They foraged for insects for their young in the nearby alfalfa fields. It seemed perfect to them, but they couldn't foresee that the farmers would harvest the grain before their chicks fledged. Since then, some adjustments have been made. For the latest, check Audubon California.
I had four recording devices going that day, including two Sony TRV-3X0 video cameras. The sonograms of these sounds are so full of sound that they don't provide much insight, so I thought I would present some video footage to show what a wild scene it was. The video signal has deteriorated with time, but fortunately the sound is okay. Note that the males typically cover their crimson epaulets, showing only the white borders. The last bird shown is different. Can you tell what he is?
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