Butte Valley lies in extreme north-central California, near the town of Macdoel about halfway between I-5 and the Klamath Basin. It includes Butte Valley National Grasslands (c. 20,000 acres, USFS) in the north and Butte Valley Wildlife Area (DFG) in the south, which includes 4000-acre Meiss Lake (ephemeral, drying every 10-15 years), 4,400 acres of managed wetlands, and about 5000 acres of other habitats such as croplands, meadows, grasslands and woodland (oak-juniper, pine-fir and riparian). Additional seasonal wetlands dot the National Grasslands, mainly in spring.

Ornithological Summary

The Butte Valley Wildlife Area is notable for exceptional concentrations of waterfowl in migration, with 100,000 ducks regularly stopping over. Tens of thousands of geese (Canada, Greater White-fronted, Snow and Ross') occur in spring, as well as up to 5000 Tundra Swans. About 50 species of birds nest in the wildlife area, including 13 species of ducks. Shuford (1998) considered this IBA among the top five most important sites for inland-breeding seabirds in northeastern California, with Meiss Lake especially important. In recent years, Meiss has supported 2-3000 pr. each of California and Ring-billed gulls, along with colonies of terns and Double-crested Cormorants. Small numbers of American White Pelican have bred here in recent wet years (1999 and 2000, K. Novick, unpubl. data). Swainson's Hawk breed in exceptional numbers, with an estimated 70 pairs in Butte Valley. Other raptors abound in fall and winter, and up to 75 Bald Eagles winter in the wildlife area.

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Conservation Issues

During the mid-1900s, the hydrology of Butte Valley was extensively altered, which included draining of wetlands and channelizing of streams. Much of this damage is being repaired by the State of California, at least within Butte Valley Wildlife Area. Riparian areas, heavily-impacted by years of cattle grazing, are being fenced and replanted. Butte Valley is often visited by natural floods after wet winters, and has long piped "excess" water north into the Klamath River. Crop yields, particularly of "cereal grains" that support migrating waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes, vary considerably from year to year, though their acreage has actually decreased considerably due to wetlands restoration.

Habitat

Butte Valley includes Butte Valley National Grasslands in the north and Butte Valley Wildlife Area (DFG) in the south, which includes 4000-acre Meiss Lake (ephemeral, drying every 10-15 years), 4,400 acres of managed wetlands, and about 5000 acres of other habitats such as croplands, meadows, grasslands and woodland (oak-juniper, pine-fir and riparian). Additional seasonal wetlands dot the National Grasslands, mainly in spring.

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