Salton Sea

A vital stopover for migratory birds.

The Salton Sea is one of the most important places for birds in North America and is in danger of losing its ecological value. If it does, we will lose a vital part of the Pacific Flyway and face a toxic dust bowl that will threaten public health for more than a million Californians.

As part of the Colorado River Delta, the sea filled and dried for thousands of years prior to its current, 35-mile-long incarnation, which came into existence as the result of a massive flood of the Colorado River in 1905. The 350-square-mile sea has partially replaced wetland habitat lost to agricultural and urban conversion in the Colorado River Delta, California’s coast, and the San Joaquin Valley.

The sea is a globally significant Important Bird Area. For more than a century, the sea has served as a major nesting, wintering, and stopover site for millions of birds of more than 400 species. Today, tiny Eared Grebes winter by the thousands in rafts far out on its surface. American White Pelicans roost on mudflats and fish for tilapia in its shallows.

Recently, its water level dropped to the point that colonial seabirds began abandoning nesting sites en masse in 2013, and shallow, marshy habitat areas at the sea’s edge have begun to rapidly vanish, particularly at the south end. And in 2017, inputs of Colorado River water that have been maintaining a minimum sea level are scheduled to end, as more water is transferred from local agricultural uses to urban uses on the coast. As less water flows into the sea, it will shrink considerably, becoming saltier and eventually inhospitable to birds, fish, and insects.

For more on the Salton Sea, visit Audubon California's site. Download our latest fact sheet here: Salton Sea fact sheet.

Our Work on the Salton Sea


An Avian Cholera Outbreak at the Salton Sea Has Killed Thousands of Birds

Officials are working hard to contain the disease, but they worry that future outbreaks could be worsened by the sea’s continued deterioration.
Saline Lakes News

Stop calling the Salton Sea an accident

It doesn't help solve the ongoing problems in the region, and it's also not true.
Western Water News

How Much Water Do Birds and People Need at the Salton Sea?

Scientists with Audubon California dug deep into science to develop a calculator to find out.
Audubon in Action

The Fate of the Salton Sea Is in Our Hands

Now that Prop 68 has passed, the Salton Sea gets $200 million to help safeguard the health of people and birds. But that’s just the first step.
Press Room

Audubon Urges California Officials to Swiftly Implement New Salton Sea Funds

Voters approved a bond measure that includes $200 million for critical dust mitigation and habitat restoration projects at California’s largest lake.
Audubon in Action

Audubon California’s new Salton Sea director brings local experience to effort to preserve critical bird habitat

Frank Ruiz will use his experience in the Imperial Valley to rally support for protecting bird habitat while addressing public health concerns associated with the Salton Sea.

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