Landsat Helps Feed the Birds



Satellites are helping to feed tired and hungry birds.

A project using NASA / USGS satellites and citizen science has resulted in new ‘pop-up’ habitats for shorebirds.

Roughly 7000 acres of temporary wetlands were created in California from February to April 2016 to aid birds during their migration.

Every spring, shorebirds migrate up the Pacific Flyway.

During this long journey they refuel by feeding in wetlands but 95% of these habitats have been lost to farmland and drought.

To help birds, The Nature Conservancy wanted to try something different.

  Their BirdReturns program partnered with farmers by paying them to flood their fields when migrating birds traveled through the area.

Scientists used a database with more than 100 million bird sightings to predict where and when birds migrate.

The whiter the area, the more likely the chance to spot birds.

An 11-year satellite record helped predict where water was located through the year.

Both datasets are analyzed to produce targets for flooding, which are areas with little water but many birds.

"Our program creates, for these certain weeks of the year, temporary pop-up wetland habitat”. Mark Reynolds, Ecologist

Scientists see BirdReturns as a model for managing scarce water for people and nature.