Importance to waterfowl
Waterfowl concentrations are greatest in California during fall and winter when migrants from northern latitudes join locally breeding or produced birds (Bellrose 1980). The Central Valley winters nearly six million ducks and 1 million geese and swans when waterfowl populations are at NAWMP goals. This represents >60% of all waterfowl (excluding sea ducks) wintering in the Pacific Flyway. Of special importance, California winters >20% of all mallards, wigeon, green-winged teal, northern shovelers, canvasbacks, and ruddy ducks; >30% of all lesser snow geese and tundra swans; >50% of all northern pintails, white-fronted geese, and Ross' geese. Today, the San Francisco Bay is still an important staging and wintering area for waterfowl, especially diving ducks, in the Pacific Flyway. More ducks winter in San Francisco Bay than in the much larger Chesapeake Bay (SFEP 1992). Midwinter surveys during 1981-90 indicated that an average of 193,000 waterfowl were present on the open water and salt ponds of San Francisco Bay. During that time, the relative composition of waterfowl species in the Bay was scaup (35%), scoters (14%), shoveler (12%), ruddy duck (11%), canvasback (8%), other dabbling ducks (10%), and other ducks (10%). The most abundant diving ducks over the past 10 years have been scaup, surf scoter, ruddy duck, canvasback, and bufflehead - in that order (SFEP 1992).
Ducks Unlimited's Valley CARE Program was initiated in the Central Valley in 1993 to comprehensively address wetland and waterfowl conservation issues in this important wintering and migration area. The program integrates several strategies including wetland restoration, enhancement, and protection; promotes wildlife friendly agriculture practices, especially post-harvest flooding of ricelands; and develops public policy and communication initiatives that address conservation needs in the Valley.
There have been substantial increases in waterfowl habitat within the Central Valley since the 1990s, and we've used the update of the ICP to report on some of these accomplishments. Since the early 1990s, DU and its partners have restored approximately 60,000 acres of wetland habitat. This represents half of the 120,000 acres wetland restoration objective identified in the ICP. In addition, over 56,800 acres of existing wetlands have received long-term protection. This equals 70% of the ICP's 84,000 acres wetland protection goal.