The Fall Migration has begun

By Luke Matthews

The full force of the fall Pacific Flyway migration has not started, here in the Sacramento Valley; However, birds have started to arrive from their northern breeding grounds! It was early August when I started noticing migratory shorebird species such as Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs. By mid-August, I started seeing more shorebird species such as Phalaropes, Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers and small groups of our migratory duck species, including Northern Pintail, Northern Shovelers, and American Green-winged Teal. Now in September, shorebird and duck numbers are building and more species are continuing to arrive. Additional species that I have I have seen include American Wigeon and a few small pockets of Greater White-fronted Geese.

Despite the extremely smoky conditions that we are experiencing, caused by dozens of wildfires currently burning in and around the Sacramento Valley; more birds are arriving each and every day. Soon enough other fall/winter species will get here, such as American Avocets, Dunlin, Long-billed Curlews, Aleutian Cackling Geese, and Sandhill Cranes. With their arrival we welcome cooler fall weather, shorter days, and the approaching winter rains.

While these may be uncertain and unsettling times it is comforting for me to know that one of the gems of the region, the fall migration of 5 to 7 million birds, is still on track! These birds seem to be largely undeterred by the smoke and are arriving on schedule. As conditions become more favorable, I recommend driving to the nearest wildlife refuge to catch a glimpse of these early-arriving migrants.


Luke Matthews is the Wildlife Programs Manager for the California Rice Commission