Water and birds

Water is of vital importance to the survival of California’s birds and the habitats that support them.

Snow Geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Scott Flaherty/USFWS

California in 2016 entered its fifth straight year of drought, and the ramifications for birds and people are considerable.

Water, of course, is fundamental to our lives, our communities, and our economy. Public policy around water allocations and usage is serious business. Water is also of vital importance to the survival of California’s birds and the habitats that support them. That’s why Audubon California has been at the forefront: advocating for birds during important policy discussions around the recent water bond, drought response, and water allocations to critical wildlife refuges.

The National Audubon Society new strategic plan creates an initiative around water that takes into account its growing importance in our organization’s ongoing efforts to safeguard birds. Nowhere is that focus more apparent than in California, where water is at the center of several important initiatives.

Below you will find links to the important work that Audubon California is doing around water and birds.

Drought and birds
Seas & Shores

Drought and birds

With the California drought entering its fifth straight year in 2016, the impacts to birds are already being seen and felt.

Read more

Fighting for Central Valley birds
Seas & Shores

Fighting for Central Valley birds

Audubon California continues to advocate for adequate water supplies for Central Valley refuges.

Read more

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Securing a home for birds at the Salton Sea

Audubon California is helping secure the future of one of the state's key bird habitats.

Read more

New opportunities for birds at Owens Lake
Important Bird Areas

New opportunities for birds at Owens Lake

Audubon California is working with Eastern Sierra Audubon to take advantage of a unique opportunity to support migratory birds at Owens Lake.

Read more

San Joaquin River restoration
Important Bird Areas

San Joaquin River restoration

The San Joaquin River is one of the most threatened rivers in North American, and we need to bring it back to its former glory.

Read more

Latest news

As state makes new commitments on Salton Sea timeline, it will still be judged by its work on the ground
Water

As state makes new commitments on Salton Sea timeline, it will still be judged by its work on the ground

— With water deliveries set to stop on Dec. 31, the state must move to control toxic dust and protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
25th anniversary of water reform law provides perspective on progress and challenges
Water

25th anniversary of water reform law provides perspective on progress and challenges

The Central Valley Project Improvement Act has played a major role in preserving habitat. It would do even better if fully implemented.

Gunnison Island: Home of up to 20,000 nesting American White Pelicans
Water

Gunnison Island: Home of up to 20,000 nesting American White Pelicans

Our Audubon colleague from Utah gives us an update on American White Pelicans on the Great Salt Lake

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.

The fight continues for responsible water management in California’s Central Valley
Water

The fight continues for responsible water management in California’s Central Valley

Audubon California and other conservation groups vow to oppose H.R. 23 in the Senate.

House passes H.R. 23, the worst water bill we've seen

Waterfowl at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Jim Gain

The U.S. House of Representatives this morning passed H.R. 23, which we opposed because it seeks to wrest control over much of California's water from the state to the feds. If eventually signed by President Trump, it will overturn decades of negotiations on water in California. Audubon California opposes it because it will divert water from the Center Valley refuges, undermine the Endangered Species Act, and halt the restoration of the San Joaquin River. Audubon activists sent about 3,500 emails to Congress just in the last week in opposition to this bad bill. Now it moves on to the Senate, where we will continue our fight.

David Yarnold op-ed: Saline lakes are drying up across the West — and putting birds at serious risk

Audubon President David Yarnold writes today in the Los Angeles Times about how short-sighted management of water in the arid West is putting birds -- and people -- at risk. Speaking about the shrinking saline lakes -- such as the Salton Sea and the Great Salt Lake -- he notes that birds are incredibly reliant on these ecosystems that have been increasingly destabilized by diversions.

"Because water birds in the West depend on the region’s entire network of salt lakes, these declines could be catastrophic for the global populations of some species. For instance, 99% of the North American population of eared grebes — small waterfowl distinguished by bright red eyes that are framed by sassy tufts of golden feathers — depends on western saline lakes to survive their long migrations. What’s more, dams, diversions, extended drought and water demand along the Colorado River have devastated cottonwood-willow forests and other native river habitat. While this riverbank habitat accounts for less than 5% of the regional landscape, it supports more than 40% of all bird species in the Southwest."

Conservation groups demand to be included in high-level Salton Sea talks
Salton Sea

Conservation groups demand to be included in high-level Salton Sea talks

Audubon California joined with Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club to ensure that public health and environmental issues are addressed.

Bird populations crashing at the Salton Sea

Excellent reporting in the Desert Sun about how observers are starting to see dramatic declines in bird populations at the Salton Sea. Time is running out to fix things.

Following this year's rains, not all birds and habitat areas getting water

We've always said that for some birds and habitat areas, it's always a drought. This new piece from Water Deeply is latest example.

How you can help, right now