Dry Sacramento Valley rice fields from the air

Lack of habitat bodes ill for migratory birds arriving this fall

Sacramento Valley rice farms from the air. Photo: Meghan Hertel

We've mentioned earlier how important rice fields are for migratory birds wintering in California's Central Valley. With so much natural wetland habitat lost, flooded rice fields provide surrogate habitat that the thousands upon thousands of birds need.

Audubon California Working Lands Director Meghan Hertel shot these photos out the window of her Southwest Airlines flight a few days ago. "Sac Valley rice fields are looking more dry than I have ever seen them," she said. Farmers typically flood their fields with water to decompose the rice plants for the next planting season, but the drought is making that impossible for a lot of farmers. "These should start having water on them now. We are expecting a max of 100,000 acres decomp this year -- we usually have 300,000. These shots tell that story."

Sacramento Valley rice field. Photo: Meghan Hertel
Sacramento Valley rice field from the air, Oct. 2015. Photo: Meghan Hertel

How you can help, right now