California has granted emergency protection to the tricolored blackbird, which once numbered in the millions but has seen its population plunge.
The Fish and Game Commission, meeting in Los Angeles, voted Wednesday for a 180-day ban on harassing, harming or killing the native birds. The protections could mean farmers and ranchers can't mow hayfields or shoot at flocks.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife will decide whether to enact permanent protections.
The blackbirds once were common in the Central and Sacramento valleys, where they nested in wetlands and fields.
But habitat loss and pesticide exposure has ravaged the population. A survey released in June found that there are now only about 145,000 birds left in the state and the population has plunged 64 percent since 2008 alone.