Migration Alert: Early pintail arrivals indicate dry conditions in north Pacific Flyway

Oct. 5 - Pacific Flyway

Chris Hildebrandt, DU regional biologist in California's Grasslands area

In the San Joaquin Valley of California's Central Valley, northern pintails showed up earlier this fall than anyone around can remember. The fall's first migrants, roughly 1,000 birds, arrived near Los Banos on August 1. Pintails typically arrive like clockwork on August 10. Unfortunately, this likely reflects the dry conditions in the Klamath Basin, which is forcing waterfowl to fly over and travel farther south earlier than normal. 

Habitat conditions in the San Joaquin Valley are excellent, with many private and public wetland managers working year round to provide optimal seasonal wetlands for migratory waterfowl.  Also, even with the drought conditions, sufficient water was available for moist-soil management in the Grasslands of the San Joaquin Valley, so excellent forage exists for pintail and other waterfowl species. 

The Tulare Basin did not have readily available surface water supplies like in 2011 and had to rely on expensive deep-well pumped water. However, Mendota Wildlife Area, Kern Refuge, and some of the larger private wetland complexes here irrigated annual moist-soil plants for waterfowl and have excellent conditions. Wetland habitats in the southern California area and along the Lower Colorado River are in excellent shape, and aren't as effected by drought conditions due to more stable water sources.

Chris Hildebrandt is the Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist for California's San Joaquin valley, southern California and parts of Arizona. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University and has been with the organization for 15 years.

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