Salton Sea

Audubon California is helping shape the future of this remarkable place for birds.

White Pelicans at the Salton Sea. Photo: Robin L

The Salton Sea is one of the most important places for birds in North America and is recently in danger of losing its ecological value. As the Sea changes, we will face losing a vital part of the Pacific Flyway and face a toxic dust bowl that will threaten public health for more than a million Californians.

As part of the Colorado River Delta, the sea filled and dried for thousands of years prior to its current, 35-mile-long incarnation, which came into existence as the result of a massive flood of the Colorado River in 1905. The 330-square-mile Sea has partially replaced wetland habitat lost to agricultural and urban conversion in the Colorado River Delta, California’s coast, and the San Joaquin Valley.

The Sea is a globally significant Important Bird Area. For the past century, the Sea has served as a major nesting, wintering, and stopover site for millions of birds of approximately 400 species. Until recent years, tiny Eared Grebes wintered by the thousands in rafts far out on its surface. American White Pelicans roosted on mudflats and fished for tilapia in its shallows.  Migratory shorebirds stopped to migrate and feed along the Sea’s edge. Today’s avifauna is shifting – the Sea is loosing the fish-eating birds such as pelicans and cormorants because fish populations are disappearing.  Eared grebes, who have fed on pile worms, are also declining rapidly, from millions to several thousand. Shorebirds, however, that feast on invertebrates along the shore edges, as well as shallow feeding ducks such as Northern Shoveler and Ruddy Duck, are still wintering at, or passing along the Sea, in massive numbers.

Recently, its water level dropped to the point that colonial seabirds began abandoning nesting sites en masse in 2013, and shallow, marshy habitat areas at the sea’s edge have begun to rapidly vanish, particularly at the south end. And in 2017, inputs of Colorado River water that have been maintaining a minimum sea level are scheduled to end, as more water is transferred from local agricultural uses to urban uses on the coast. As less water flows into the sea, it will shrink considerably, becoming more saline and eventually inhospitable to birds, fish, and insects.

Audubon California has the opportunity to help address some of the immense challenges of the Salton Sea.

Birds of the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Birds of the Salton Sea

More than 400 species of birds come to the Salton Sea in California.

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Crisis looming at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Crisis at the Salton Sea

Water losses could soon present major problems for birds at the Salton Sea.

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Audubon's role at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Audubon at the Salton Sea

Audubon is speaking out for the birds in this troubled ecosystem.

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New online map for birding the Salton Sea
Audublog

Explore the birds of the Salton Sea

New interactive map shows you the best places to view birds at the Salton Sea.

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Roadmap for protecting bird habitat at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Roadmap for protecting bird habitat at the Salton Sea

Research about how much habitat -- and what kind -- birds are using at the Salton Sea should guide restoration.

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Local students help migratory shorebirds of the Salton Sea
Audublog

Local students help migratory shorebirds of the Salton Sea

San Diego Audubon Society recently partnered with an elementary school to educate students about birds that rely on the Salton Sea.

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More about the Salton Sea

Eyes On the Sea hits the Salton Sea shoreline. Audubon California recently launched a new program that provides opportunities for local youth to monitor birds at the Salton Sea. This is the terrific group from Indio High School this morning.

Op-ed: Now is California's chance to save the Salton Sea

In today's Desert Sun, Audubon California's Frank Ruiz urges the state to take advantage of the opportunity and finally do right by the Salton Sea.

A key quote:

This year brings a new governor and new administration leaders to this effort. This should be a defining year for the Salton Sea — a time when we as Californians can decide what kind of future we want for this unique place.

Audubon California’s message to Salton Sea policymakers: Don’t blow it
Press Center

Audubon California’s message to Salton Sea policymakers: Don’t blow it

— Representatives point out that the state and key stakeholders are poised to make up for lost time on one of the state’s most intractable environmental issues.
Speak Up for Birds at the Salton Sea
Audublog

Speak Up for Birds at the Salton Sea

State Water Board public hearing on March 19th to gather public input on Salton Sea Management Program.

Audubon California and EDF applaud efforts of So Cal water agencies to complete Drought Contingency Plan
Salton Sea

Audubon California and EDF applaud efforts of So Cal water agencies to complete Drought Contingency Plan

Drought Contingency Plan will bring important water stability to entire region, for the benefit of birds and communities

Visiting the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Visiting the Salton Sea

A group of Auduboners visited the west side of the Salton Sea this week. Some pictures.

Rapid decline of fish at the Salton Sea prompts dramatic changes among birds

Article in the Desert Sun notes how the rapid decline in fish at the Salton Sea has prompted the near disappearance of fish-eating birds, such as White Pelicans. The state's new director of natural resources, Wade Crowfoot, acknowledges the crisis and vows to take action: "This is a top priority for the Resources Agency."

Stop calling the Salton Sea an accident
Salton Sea

Stop calling the Salton Sea an accident

It doesn't help solve the ongoing problems in the region, and it's also not true.

2018 Farm Bill includes funding for Salton Sea

The Desert Sun highlights how the 2018 Farm Bill allows for federal funding for Salton Sea restoration.

Surveying birds at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Surveying birds at the Salton Sea

We were at the Sea this week participating in a sea-wide survey of birds

How you can help, right now