California rice farmers are at the forefront of an effort to provide much-needed habitats for migratory shorebirds, the Associated Press reports.
How did rice farmers get involved?
The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service instituted a $2 million incentive program aimed at rice farmers willing to add islands and bird-friendly features to their paddies.
Why do rice paddies provide a habitat solution?
California features about 77,000 acres of protected wetlands in its northern portion. In contrast, rice paddies take up in excess of 500,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. Migratory birds have also suffered the destruction of habitats due to water deals. Case in point is the shrinking of the Imperial Valley's Salton Sea, as noted by National Public Radio. The diversion of Colorado River water as part of a water deal to supply San Diego County cities has caused habitat destruction via massive fish kills, lake size reduction and plant diebacks.
What types of birds visit the rice paddies?
The California Rice Commission maintains a long list of birds that are known to take up residence in and around rice paddies. They include the American white pelican, the bald eagle, the American avocet, the mew gull and Lincoln's sparrow.
Is it cost-effective to underwrite the creation of artificial wetland habitat?
Although the commission refers to the setup of artificial wetlands around the Pacific Flyway as a "'free' public service," participating rice farmers create supportive features, making the flooded paddies more useful to the birds. The incentive program primarily funds the voluntary additions of this type to the already flooded paddies.
Who else is working to restore habitats for migratory birds in California?
San Juan Capistrano used to be famous for its mission building and the colony of cliff swallows that would return to the mission each spring. After a renovation of the mission -- and the destruction of numerous swallows' nests -- the migratory birds have failed to return. Voice of America recounts San Juan Capistrano's plan to lure back the swallows with recordings of the birds. Previous attempts at providing artificial nests, mud puddles and ladybugs as a food source failed. By May, this plan led to the discovery of 100 nesting swallows near the mission.
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.
- Nature & Environment
- rice paddies
- Migratory birds