DAVIS, Calif., April 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Farmers who have Tricolored Blackbirds nesting in their fields may be eligible for financial assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to delay silage harvesting and allow the birds 35 days to fledge their young. Interested producers should submit an application as soon as possible because the application-ranking period closes May 13, 2016, for funding consideration.
"A unique partnership of dairy farmers and environmental experts continues to work together to help protect both an imperiled bird and the long-term sustainability of California's dairy industry," says Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist for California. "The goal is to create a strong incentive for farmers to voluntarily help these birds recover."
Each spring, Tricolored Blackbirds build large colonies of nests in the Central Valley areas that were once marshy ecosystems and are now cropland. About 43 percent of the birds now use silage crops such as triticale and wheat to build their nests. Since Tricolored Blackbirds are colonial nesters, thousands of birds may be impacted by harvest operations that conflict with the fledging dates of the young birds. The species is now federally listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern and is protected under the California Endangered Species Act, as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Entering its fourth year, this NRCS Tricolored Blackbird Initiative helps farmers who have Tricolored Blackbirds nesting in their fields by providing incentive payments to delay harvest until the young birds have fledged. Over the past four years, farmers' participation in this initiative has resulted in nesting success for tens of thousands of birds.
Funding for this initiative is provided through NRCS' Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP was launched in the 2014 Farm Bill to bring together partners with shared conservation causes. This partnership effort includes the Western United Dairymen, Audubon California, Dairy Cares, California Farm Bureau, and Sustainable Conservation organizations.
Tricolored Blackbirds may choose different fields in different years and only farmers in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties, who actually have Tricolored Blackbirds on their property in a winter silage crop, are eligible to participate.
More information on NRCS' products and services can be found on the NRCS California web site at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov.
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SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service