Image # 9817
Drought Threatens Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges
Sometimes referred to as the "American Serengiti," the Klamath Basin wetlands of Oregon and California provide habitat for three-quarters of Pacific Flyway birds during their fall and spring migrations. The six wildlife refuges in the Basin also provide habitat for breeding waterfowl and shorebirds, but severe drought and battles over the allocation of scarce water threaten the refuges' ability to sustain waterfowl and the wintering Bald Eagles that depend upon waterfowl as their food source. The photo above depicts an American Avocet attempting to feed in Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge's drying wetlands. Avocets, who normally feed at the water's edge, have unique upward-curving bills. By swinging their bills from side to side in the water, they are able to expose and catch crustaceans and insects. American Avocets are one of the few birds in North America with a decurved bill (that bends upwards). Avocets like shallow waters largely in the west and prairie potholes. They wade right in and feed by sweeping their open bill from side to side until a prey item hits, snags in the beak, and gets lifted, thrown back into the mouth and swallowed. The lovely orange color on the head and neck is lost in the winter plumage turning to a grayish white.