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

Partnerships protect over 160,000 acres of wetland
Working Lands

Partnerships protect over 160,000 acres of wetland

Our partnerships with local chapters and the Grasslands Water District ensure the protection of contiguous wetland habitat

Protocol - Tricolored Blackbird Winter Survey
Working Lands

Protocol - Tricolored Blackbird Winter Survey

To participate in the Tricolored Blackbird Winter Survey follow these instructions.

Working with rice farmers to help birds in the Central Valley

Audubon California's Khara Strum ventures out to Sutter County to visit a rice farm that is flooding early to provide habitat for migratory birds. She uses the visit to talk about our work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Rice Commission to provide more habitat for these birds on farms.

Making Farmland Work for Wildlife

Photo: Elizabeth Herman

Audubon's new story series "What's a Stake" takes a look at conservation programs threatened by federal budget cuts and environmental policy rollbacks.  The series highlights Audubon California's Conservation Program Director, Samantha Arthur, and her work with dairy farmers to protect Tricolored Blackbird colonies, which is funded by a federal program proposed for elimination.  

Check out this great story here.

Learn more about our Working Lands Program and efforts to protect  theTricolored Blackbird here.

Nearly 75,000 Tricolored Blackbirds protected in 2017
Press Center

Nearly 75,000 Tricolored Blackbirds protected in 2017

— Celebrating the five year partnership between farmers and conservationists that allows Tricolored blackbirds nesting on farms sufficient time to fledge their young
Farming for birds at River Garden Farms
Audublog

Farming for birds at River Garden Farms

The Yolo County farm finds innovative ways to benefit wildlife on its property

Talking about migratory birds in the Central Valley

Audubon California's Khara Strum recently took to Capital Public radio to talk about migratory birds in the Central Valley, and particularly how they use agricultural fields as surrogate habitat. Listen to the interview here.

Audubon’s work in California’s Central Valley may open opportunities for birds at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Audubon’s work in California’s Central Valley may open opportunities for birds at the Salton Sea

Can Audubon California’s efforts to support birds on Central Valley farms can be translated to the Imperial Valley?

Fire again hits the Audubon Bobcat Ranch
Audublog

Fire again hits the Audubon Bobcat Ranch

Cold Fire is the third blaze to reach Audubon's woodland sanctuary in recent years.

What's up with grebes?
Working Lands

What's up with grebes?

A brief photo-filled update on Audubon California's Grebe Conservation Project

How you can help, right now