Working Lands

Partnering with landowners to protect birds

Black-necked Stilt flying by granary.

Audubon California's Working Lands Program increases the scope and scale of bird-friendly practices on farms, wetlands and other managed lands in the Central Valley.  We do this by cultivating relationships with landowners, advocating for statewide policies that secure water and habitat for birds, and through engaging our grassroots network in their communities. Our work provides protection for focal species like the Long-billed Curlew, Tricolored Blackbird, and Western Grebe.

California’s Central Valley has 205,000 acres of managed wetlands, less than 5 percent of what was historically on the landscape. The region has some of the most fertile land in the nation and boasts 7 million acres of irrigated farmland. Some types of farms – particularly those with rice and other flood irrigated field crops – provide an important alternative to wetland habitat for birds and other wildlife. The synergy of flooded farmland and wetlands fundamentally links the health of Pacific Flyway bird populations and California’s farms and Audubon California has worked for 15 years to build partnerships with farmers to protect, enhance, and restore bird habitat on farmland in California’s Central Valley.

The Pacific Flyway is a major migratory pathway for birds and stretches from Alaska through South America. The Central Valley is a major stopover site for birds to feed and rest. Wetland habitat provided by Central Valley farms, refuges, and other managed areas support between 5-7 million waterfowl and 350,000 shorebirds each year. That’s over 60% of the Pacific Flyway and 20% of the nation's waterfowl population. Over the long-term, the best opportunities to ensure the long-term conservation of birds and other wildlife in the Central Valley is to protect and enhance working landscapes for birds and wildlife while also ensuring a vibrant system of managed wetlands on public and private lands.

Examples of Audubon California's private lands work includes:

  • Audubon partnered with the Almond Board of California and UC Davis to compile information on the role birds play in almond orchards to help us better understand potential opportunities for habitat enhancement associated with almonds. 
  • The Tricolored Blackbird is an iconic California species whose population has seen precipitous decline over the last 100 years. In an effort to protect the remaining birds, Audubon California worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the dairy industry and the California Farm Bureau, to save 100% of known colonies nesting on farmland that were at risk of destruction during harvest this year. 2016 marked the first time we achieved full protection of colonies at risk of destruction on farmland in the Central Valley, saving 57,000 breeding adult Tricolored Blackbirds
  • Four years of drought reduced wetland habitat throughout the Central Valley. Habitat availability during spring migration is one focus of the Central Valley Joint Venture (link to CVJV site). To try to address the shortage of habitat, Audubon California partnered with The Nature Conservancy to create over 3,000 acres of shorebird habitat during April and May on wetlands in the San Joaquin Valley. By prolonging flooding of these wetlands, we created shallow water for shorebirds to rest and feed along their spring migration. The prolonged flooding supported ten times the number of birds than surrounding wetlands that had been drawndown on the traditional timeframe. In the upcoming year, we will continue to work to protect water deliveries to the wetlands and refuges for birds and other wildlife

The Tricolored Blackbird in California

Grasslands Video on CVPIA with MH from Meghan Hertel on Vimeo.

Landowner Resources
Working Lands

Landowner Resources

Working lands can provide a great deal of habitat opportunities for birds and other wildlife... 

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News & Updates

Spreading the word about bird-friendly farming
Working Lands

Spreading the word about bird-friendly farming

Last week, my hospitality was directed at hemispheric travelers of the human variety, Australian biologists. The group was visiting California to learn how to create bird habitat on rice.

Dry Sacramento Valley rice fields from the air
Audublog

Dry Sacramento Valley rice fields from the air

Lack of habitat bodes ill for migratory birds arriving this fall

Sandhill Crane named 2012 Bird of the Year
Working Lands

Sandhill Crane 2012 Bird of the Year

Voters named the Sandhill Crane 2012 Bird of the Year.

Landowner Resources
Working Lands

Landowner Resources

Working lands can provide a great deal of habitat opportunities for birds and other wildlife... 

Helping Migratory Birds
Working Lands

Helping Migratory Birds

California’s migratory birds are a vital part of the state’s natural identity.

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How you can help, right now