Important Bird Areas

Salinas River - Lower

California

The Salinas River flows north through the southern Coast Range to Monterey Bay. The lower Salinas River is considered the stretch that runs from near Hwy. 101 just south of Salinas and flows northwest through agricultural lands, reaching the coast between Marina and Castroville. Strips of riparian vegetation still remain, best-developed away from the coast, and the estuary at the river mouth passes through the northern end of one of the state's most extensive coastal dune systems. One inland area, the Salinas Wastewater Ponds, features excellent bird habitat (incl. willow thickets and mudflats) within the City of Salinas. About 500 acres at the river mouth is protected as state and federal conservation areas (Salinas River State Beach, Salinas River NWR, resp.), but much of the inland stretch runs through private lands, and is managed exclusively for flood control.

Updated by Monterey Peninsula Audubon, September 2008

Ornithological Summary

The river mouth hosts a largely undisturbed roost site for waterbirds throughout the year. Brown Pelicans are common in summer; they are often joined by non-breeding small flocks of American White Pelican. Gulls and ducks proliferate in migration and winter. In many years a large breeding colony of Caspian Tern forms and California Least Tern or Black Skimmers pass through (and each have attempted to breed at least once). Open grasslands just east of Hwy 1 (undeveloped Armstrong Ranch) have large flocks of Long-billed Curlews and many raptors in season; open dunes west of Hwy 1 have a few breeding Loggerhead Shrike and Horned Lark. Riparian stretches along the Salinas River upstream have breeding Swainson's Thrush and Yellow Warbler. The Salinas wastewater treatment ponds attract a wide diversity of shorebirds and waterfowl in migration.

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Conservation Issues

Though the mouth of the Salinas River is afforded good protection from development and agriculture, the inland portion is regularly bulldozed and modified for various flood control purposes. Like the Pajaro River, it would greatly benefit from a management plan that takes into account wildlife use. Even with the Red Fox population largely controlled, predation of nesting birds (esp. by skunks and raccoons, DR) remains a chronic problem. The Salinas wastewater ponds, simply because they are not designed or operated for wildlife habitat, should be considered at risk of being converted into a more sterile environment, though the current managers have been doing an admirable job at balancing the needs of wildlife with those of water treatment.

Ownership

About 500 acres at the river mouth is protected as state and federal conservation areas (Salinas River State Beach, Salinas River NWR, resp.), but much of the inland stretch runs through private lands, and is managed exclusively for flood control.

Habitat

The Salinas River flows north through the southern Coast Range to Monterey Bay. The lower Salinas River is considered the stretch that runs from near Hwy. 101 just south of Salinas and flows northwest through agricultural lands, reaching the coast between Marina and Castroville. Strips of riparian vegetation still remain, best-developed away from the coast, and the estuary at the river mouth passes through the northern end of one of the state?s most extensive coastal dune systems. One inland area, the Salinas Wastewater Ponds, features excellent bird habitat (incl. willow thickets and mudflats) within the City of Salinas.