Have you ‘eared? Eared Grebes need a healthy Salton Sea

Waterbird is one of many species reliant upon Colorado River Delta inland sea

Eared Grebe Photo: Dan Dzurisin

With its golden tufts of plumage rising from the sides of its head and its striking crimson eyes, the Eared Grebe already stands out from the crowd, but witnessing their mating ritual elevates the experience of spotting this waterbird to a whole other level. Pairs will swim side by side, turning their heads and calling loudly. This is followed by the male and female simultaneously rising up, out of the water into a rush across the water.

For Eared Grebes, the Colorado River Delta provides critical habitat. 90% of the overwintering population of Eared Grebes spend their time at the Salton Sea, which was created as the result of a massive flood of the Colorado River in 1905. Audubon California is working with government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that the Sea remains a healthy place for this and other species. It is heartening to think what the loss of this habitat would mean for this convivial waterbird. California has lost more than 90% of its natural wetlands -- without the Salton Sea, Eared Grebes have nowhere else to go.

But there is hope, California Governor Jerry Brown recently approved a state budget that includes funds for Salton Sea restoration efforts. The $80.5 million will ultimately come from Proposition 1 funds approved by voters in 2014. The funding will help the state pay for the development of a long-term management plan that seeks to address the problems created by reduced water deliveries to California’s largest inland lake. It will also jump-start restoration of habitat along the edge of the lake, creating infrastructure to move water to a number of habitat areas.

Please tell us what bird is your favorite Colorado River Delta species. Tweet it, Instagram it, or Facebook it using the hashtag #CORiver.

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