BID4BIRDS OVERVIEW

Bid4Birds Overview

The Sacramento Valley of California is one of the major wintering grounds for migratory waterbirds in the Pacific Flyway.

This same region also supports over 500,000 acres of rice which produces most of the Nations Sushi rice. When managed properly these rice fields can provide key habitat for this migrating waterbirds.
 
Starting in 2016 the Foundation began to allocate a significant amount of its donor contributions to a program call BirdReturns. BirdReturns is a program that was developed by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the California Rice Commission in 2014.
 
Continuing with that legacy the Foundation is now running its own shoulder season habitat program known as Bid4Birds. This is a program that was modeled after BirdReturns and compensates rice farmers to flood their fields, for 3-6 weeks, after harvest for the benefit of shorebirds.

Key Program Details

  • Enrollment opens: December 27, 2019
  • Deadline: 5 p.m. on January 21, 2020
  • Variable 3-6 week commitments
  • Flooding with a maximum of 4″of water on fields
  • Post-harvest straw management required
  • 25 acres minimum

Previous shoulder season efforts

Spring 2016 | Spring 2017 | Fall 2018

  • Foundation funding supported the creation of over 3,000 acres of critical shoulder season habitat
  • Over 1.8 million birds known to have used the shoulder season habitat provided by BirdReturns with help from Foundation’s contributions.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

11k

Acres Enrolled

30

Growers Participating

350k

Birds Counted in 2019

BACKGROUND

Habitat loss and migratory bird needs

The Central Valley of California is a key stop over and winter location along the Pacific Flyway, which extends from Alaska and the Arctic down to Patagonia. Millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, wading birds, and cranes use this migratory corridor to move between their summer and winter ranges. The Central Valley supports 30 percent of the shorebirds and 60 percent of the ducks and geese in the entire Pacific Flyway.

With significant losses of up to 95% of California’s wetlands it is critical to find a new way of providing habitat to support these millions of birds that rely on the Central Valley during their migrations.

Rice fields have a unique ability to provide a surrogate wetland habitat during both the growing and post-harvest periods of the production cycle.

The Central Valley supports 30 percent of the shorebirds and 60 percent of the ducks and geese in the entire Pacific Flyway.

Using proven conservation practices the over 500,000 acres of rice produced in the northern part of the Central Valley can provide key habitat for many of these migratory birds.

The Foundation has been evolved in working with partners on habitat programs since its inception. Some of these programs are Waterbirds Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP), Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and BirdReturns. All of these programs focus on providing incentive funding for farmers to integrate bird-friendly conservation practices into their farming operations.

Bid4Birds Program Inspiration

Starting in 2016 the Foundation has been working in close partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to help provide funding for their innovative shoulder season habitat program called BirdReturns. TNC, in collaboration with the California Rice Commission, developed BirdReturns which uses precision science tools, current migration data, and a competitive bidding system to create habitat for migrating shorebirds. This extremely flexible system allowed TNC to work with rice growers to create habitat exactly when and where it was needed most. Building upon the good work of TNC the Foundation has developed its own parallel program based on the key principles of TNC’s program.

The Foundation is excited to be owning and operating its own habitat enhancement program focused on providing critical shoulder season habitat for migratory birds. While many rice farmers already use bird-friendly practices during their farming operation this program is designed to provide funding for conservation-minded farmers willing to take an extra step to make their farms even more beneficial for waterbirds.

What is shoulder season habitat and why is it so critical

Many rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley of California use water to decompose their remaining rice straw after harvest. This post-harvest flooding creates over 300,000 acres of surrogate wetland habitat between October and February, the peak of migration season.

While this flooding is key to the survival of millions of wintering waterbirds there are many species that migrate early or late and arrive in the Sacramento Valley to find little to no flooded habitat. By focusing on the shoulder season, both before and after the typical post-harvest flooding period, the Foundation can provide a critical source of flooded habitat when it is most scarce and therefore most needed.

Furthermore, many of these shoulder season migrants are shorebirds which require shallower water than is typically provided during the normal post-harvest flooding periods.

Lewis Johnson, owner of Butte View Olive Oil in Oroville, CA, Tuesday, December 9, 2014.
Photo Brian Baer

Past Shoulder Season Acres

Spring 2016

  • 800 acres enrolled
  • Funded 25% of the habitat contracts
  • Over 1 million birds counted on BirdReturns acres including those funded by the Foundation.

Spring 2017

  • 779 acres enrolled
  • Funded 50% of the habitat contracts
  • Target species include the long-billed dowitcher, least sandpiper, dunlin, greater yellowlegs, curlew, plover, black-necked stilts, white-faced ibis, and American avocet.

Fall 2018

  • 1,496 acres enrolled
  • Funded 78% of the habitat contracted acres
  • Over 1.8 Million birds counted on BirdReturns and Foundation funded acres in this program

Donations made to the Foundation

Many rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley of California use water to decompose their remaining rice straw after harvest. This post-harvest flooding creates over 300,000 acres of surrogate wetland habitat between October and February, the peak of migration season. While this flooding is key to the survival of millions of wintering waterbirds there are many species that migrate early or late and arrive in the Sacramento Valley to find little to no flooded habitat. By focusing on the shoulder season, both before and after the typical post-harvest flooding period, the Foundation can provide a critical source of flooded habitat when it is most scarce and therefore most needed. Furthermore, many of these shoulder season migrants are shorebirds which require shallower water than is typically provided during the normal post-harvest flooding periods.

North east of Marysville CA, Tuesday, February 9, 2016.
Photo Brian Baer
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