Tipton dairyman delays triticale harvest for blackbirds

A partnership between several groups is working to promote populations of Tricolored Blackbirds in California’s Central Valley.

The partnership includes: dairy farmer Frank Mendonsa, owner of Oak Creek Jerseys near Tipton; plus Western United Dairymen, USDA, Audubon California, California Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy CARES, and Sustainable Conservation.

Mendonsa is the board chairman for Western United Dairymen, a dairy trade association based in Modesto, Calif.

After discovering the nesting birds, Mendonsa began working in partnership with the other organizations to help protect nesting blackbirds. Mendonsa will leave 80 acres of triticale untouched while eggs are laid and until the young are able to fly away on their own, which could be a period of several weeks.

Through funding provided in the recent Farm Bill, Mendonsa is compensated to delay harvest of his Triticale, a forage crop used to feed his 1,000-cow Jersey herd. This is because over 2,500 Tricolored Blackbirds recently took up temporary nest in a portion of his fields.

The birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act because their numbers have dwindled from the millions to less than 150,000 today, according to Audubon California.

Tricolored Blackbirds typically nest in marshes and wetlands, but because of California’s drought, triticale is an excellent habitat for the migratory birds.

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