Long-billed dowitchers like this one have full plumage when they're breeding, but they lose feathers on their migratory stopovers. Without their flight feathers, they can't fly long distances or avoid predators.
Birds Are Dying As Drought Ravages Avian Highways
Migrating birds are weakened or sickened as they wing their way along the Pacific flyway in search of fresh water.
Suisun City, CaliforniaIn years past, long-billed dowitchers flying in from Alaska could count on California stopovers to offer vast stretches of fresh melted snow teeming with plants and insects.
But now, as the Sierra Nevada snowpack has vanished and clouds offer little rain, few lush sanctuaries are available to sustain these shorebirds on their journey along the avian highway known as the Pacific flyway. Experts say that once the dowitchers arrive in the Central Valley this month, their prospects look bleak.
Along the 4,000-mile-long Pacific flyway—one of four main routes in North America for migrating birds—up to six million ducks, geese, and swans wing south every year to find warmth after raising young in the rich habitats of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. They are