Bird Benefits

The Pacific Flyway is one of the most significant migration routes in the world. Each year, over 1 billion birds travel north and south in a range extending from Alaska to South America.

Serving as a critical wintering spot, California is the linchpin of the Pacific Flyway.The Central Valley hosts millions of ducks, geese, swans and shorebirds. Their trek takes them from lands with virtually pristine conditions in Alaska and Canada, down to California, where less than 5 percent of the historic wetland habitat remains. Despite habitat loss, California’s Central Valley still supports 60 percent of  the ducks and geese, and 30 percent of the shorebirds on the entire Pacific Flyway.

Pilot Results

The strong interest and participation in the 2014 pilot program enabled a robust demonstration of the value of bird-friendly management practices on rice fields. By comparing the participating fields with a collection of other fields throughout the Valley, TNC scientists were able to determine the value of the participating growers’ efforts.Overall, the fields enrolled in the BirdReturns pilot program far outperformed the control fields in terms of migratory bird response.

  • An average of 20 times more shorebirds were found on BirdReturns fields during Feb-March. In late March, BirdReturns fields supported an average of greater than 40x the densities of shorebirds found on neighboring non-program fields.
  • The largest Dunlin flocks recorded in BirdReturns fields totaled over 20,000 birds. According to best estimates, this represents approximately 20 percent of the entire population of Dunlin present in the Central Valley in winter.
  • Because of the varied water depths throughout the participating fields, the program supported a wide variety of birds including shorebirds and waterfowl.  There were 15 times more waterfowl on BirdReturns fields than on control fields in February.


Bird Observations – 2014 Pilot


© The Nature Conservancy


© The Nature Conservancy