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Birds Winter at the Salton Sea

What a feast! And what a smell!

California's Salton Sea is hot and smelly - and it's also a Mecca for thousands of wintering birds. This inland sea formed when the Colorado River breached floodgates in 1905, forming a lake 45 miles long. The lake has diminished in size and greatly increased in salt concentration, but a single introduced fish - the African tilapia - persists in abundance. Seabirds visit the Salton Sea to feed on them. The smell comes from occasional massive die-offs of the fish, so abundant that their bones make up the shoreline. Every winter, the salty waters support hordes of water birds, including shorebirds, herons, cormorants, pelicans, and waterfowl. Check it out!

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Birds Winter at the Salton Sea

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!
    [Wind blowing across the open]
    What great spectacle would draw a steady stream of birders this time of year to a place well known for being hot and smelly? California’s below-sea-level Salton Sea, and the irrigated farmlands at its southern end, are a mecca for tens of thousands of wintering birds. 
     [Snow Goose flock calls]
    This inland sea formed when the Colorado River breached floodgates in 1905 [Sound of rushing water]. Water flowed into the arid Imperial Valley, forming a lake 45 miles long. A century later, the lake has diminished in size and greatly increased in salt concentration, becoming too salty for most aquatic life.
    But a single introduced fish persists in abundance, the African tilapia. Seabirds, including thousands of Brown Pelicans, visit the Salton Sea to gobble its fish. The smell comes from occasional massive die-offs of the fish, so abundant that their bones make up the shoreline. [Gentle waves washing up on shore]
    Every winter, the salty waters support hordes of water birds, including shorebirds [American Avocet calls], herons [Great Blue Heron raaaa call], cormorants, and waterfowl. [Female Mallard quacking, male Mallards chattering]
    Great flocks of Snow and Ross’s Geese feed in the farmlands. A cloud of these white birds lifting from a field may make you forget the heat and even the smell.
[Snow Geese flock calls]
    Check out the photos at birdnote.org. Today’s show is brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
                                                                               ###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Flock of Snow Geese [61210] recorded by W.W. H. Gunn; call of Avocet [50264] by G.A. Keller; call of Great Blue Heron [2034] by C.A. Sutherland; quack of female Mallard [3420] recorded by A.A. Allen; chatter of males [3430] A.A. Allen.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org     November 2012   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# saltonsea-01-2012-11-14    saltonsea-01              

Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex at http://www.fws.gov/saltonsea/

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