December Pacific Flyway Report: California

Bill Monroe, the  WF360 Pacific Flyway Migration Editor, just released an update on the conditions for waterfowl in California on DU’s website. And thanks to recent storms, the numbers are encouraging.


The survey tallied 500,000 pintails on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex alone. More than 100,000 wigeon and an equal number of green-winged teal were also surveyed on these refuges.
The heavy rains that have hit the state are helping wetland habitats that were previously struggling for water, bringing more birds from the north.


Virginia Getz, DU regional manager for conservation in California, reports that more water is now available in the Central Valley than was anticipated before the hunting season began, and the welcome rainfall can only help improve habitat conditions for wintering waterfowl. Some lift-curtailments have been rescinded, meaning many clubs, farms, and other water users can now draw runoff out of drainage ditches.
“Duck numbers were good in the mid-November survey,” Getz says. “We’re also thick with geese right now.”
Things are also looking up in the southern portion of the state, as a large influx of birds should be arriving soon.


“The cold weather hit Utah and pushed birds out of the Great Salt Lake,” says Chris Hildebrandt, DU regional biologist in Southern California and Arizona. “Some green-winged teal are finally here. They’re usually a late-arrival. Bird numbers are not yet at their peak, so hunting should get better through December.”