The project plans to determine where and when birds will need to land and whether water might be available to them, and then will pay farmers competitive prices to flood their fields precisely at the time of the birds' descent. If it works, it will be a win-win. Farmers whose livelihoods have been affected by drought will benefit from improved soil fertility and the financial incentive. Birds that have a scarce amount of habitat to choose from, as more than 90 percent of their wetlands have been turned into farms, would have a place to land in their seasonal journeys.
The project uses data collected through Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s database to figure out where the biggest populations of birds will be and when, and pinpoints water availability by collaborating with California-based conservancy group Point Blue Conservation.
The organization is predicting that up to a quarter of shorebirds will use the habitats that result from the initial phase, coming as far away as the high Arctic to spend winter in California.
At the Conservancy’s Staten Island property located between San Francisco and Sacramento, conservation-friendly agricultural practices have led to one of the largest concentrations of sandhill cranes—15 percent of the cranes that winter in California.
At our Cosumnes River Preserve east of the Bay Area, organic rice fields are flooded in winter to provide habitat for birds. In December, 2013, nearly 124,000 birds were already roosting, feeding and settling in—an all-time record.
Information provided by The Nature Conservancy