California in Winter? It's for the Birds

Rachael Myrow/KQED

White pelicans fly over the town of Gridley in the Central Valley.

The Central Valley is bird-central these days. Every winter, millions of migratory birds head from Northern Canada down the Pacific Flyway, stopping at their favorite watering holes from southern Oregon to the San Joaquin Valley. 

The numbers in January are not what they were at the tail end of December. But you’d still be hard-pressed to count how many tricolor blackbirds, geese, ducks, egrets, owls, hawks, vultures -- even gulls -- stop for a meal and avian companionship in Northern California.

Since the vast majority of the state’s marshland habitat has been drained and paved or plowed over, birds have adapted and set down in rice fields instead. But they also seem to mark places like the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area on their internal Pacific Flyway maps.

Many of the Central Valley bird celebrations designed for humans have already happened, but next weekend, the 17th Annual Flyway Festival on Vallejo's Mare Island promises to deliver 60 bird-lover events, like guided hikes and workshops.

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