“Pop-up” Wetlands Are Helping California’s Shorebirds, Thanks to Farmers, Birders, and Scientists

Since the famed Gold Rush in 1849, California’s Central Valley has lost 95% of its wetlands. More than 7 million waterfowl fly through each year, their future uncertain as habitats dwindle.

To create lifesaving stopover areas for these birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy teamed up with local rice farmers to provide flooded fields as “pop-up” wetlands for the birds’ migratory journeys through the Central Valley .

Bird watchers recorded thousands of observations to eBird, allowing researchers to identify the most valuable spots for shorebirds and waterfowl as the birds travel north each spring. Thanks to your support which makes this work possible, farmers in these areas have participated in the BirdReturns program since 2014, setting a price in a bid to be paid for flooding their fields at the exact time when migrating birds need them the most.

Join Our Email List

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. Sign up for email and don’t miss a thing!

Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library