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VOA Voice of America

California Drought Affects Winter Refuges for Migratory Birds

Sandhill cranes land in flooded fields at the Sandhill Crane Reserve near Thornton, California, Nov. 3, 2015. The state's ongoing drought has left millions of waterfowl that migrate from northern climes to California with fewer places to land, seek food.

Sandhill cranes land in flooded fields at the Sandhill Crane Reserve near Thornton, California, Nov. 3, 2015. The state’s ongoing drought has left millions of waterfowl that migrate from northern climes to California with fewer places to land, seek food.

Reuters

With their red heads, 2.13-meter (7-foot) wingspan and a trilling call, migrating Sandhill Cranes provide a dramatic sunset spectacle as they land by the thousands in wetlands near Sacramento each night during the fall and winter.

But the state’s ongoing drought has left the cranes, along with millions of other waterfowl that migrate from Canada and other northern climes to spend the winter in California, with fewer places to land, threatening their health as they crowd in on one another to seek shelter and food.

“They’re left with fewer and fewer places to go, which will start to have impacts on their population,” said Meghan Hertel, who works on habitat issues for the Audubon Society in California. “They can die here from starvation or disease or be weaker for their flight back north.”

Beloved sight

The cranes are a beloved sight in California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys when they arrive each fall.

Tourists flock to see them as they take off en masse at dawn or land in a series of swooping, trilling groups as the sun goes down.

 

 

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