The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo is a growing habitat reserve located in South Orange County. Over time The Nature Reserve will grow to include over 20,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo lands, inclusive of The Richard & Donna O’Neill Conservancy. This protected open space is managed by the Rancho Mission Viejo Land Trust, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to "preserve and enhance Reserve lands for ecological, educational, charitable, conservation, open space, scientific, and recreational uses."

Species Spotlight

Tricolored Blackbird

The Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) is a sensitive bird species found on The Nature Reserve. A member of the passerine family, these small black birds could once be seen in the wetlands and marshes that once made up much of California. With an estimated loss of 95% of these wetlands, populations of Tricolored blackbirds have declined due to this and other habitat loss.

Tricolored blackbirds forage on the ground as well as trees and shrubs. They primarily eat insects and seeds. When insects are more available in the summer months they will feed on caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. In Fall and Winter they forage for seeds.

Male Tricolored blackbirds are often mistaken for their close-relative, the red-winged blackbird. These two can be distinguished from one another by the colors on their wings. Male Tricolored blackbirds have red and white plumage on their wings. Male Red-winged blackbirds have red and yellow plumage.

On The Nature Reserve, Tricolored blackbirds can be found in riparian and agricultural areas. These birds have been seen in the Gobernadora Ecological Restoration Area (GERA). GERA is riparian restoration area that can be seen from the Ranch Camp Loop trail in Rancho Mission Viejo. Riparian habitats are habitats that are alongside creeks and rivers. The rich plant life of riparian habitats provide shelter and food for Tricolored blackbirds and other sensitive species.

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