Winter in California Rice country is hardly slow, even though farmers might be taking a break.
For photographers and bird watchers it’s an excellent time to view millions of birds taking a break from their commute along the Pacific Flyway. Rice fields flooded to enhance decomposition of stubble make excellent habitat for wildlife.
California grows about five billion pounds of rice annually across 550,000 acres of farmland. Much of this production is in the Sacramento Valley between Chico and Sacramento. Rice is also grown in small pockets in the northern San Joaquin Valley. Much of the state’s rice is medium grain varieties, with the balance in short grain and specialty varieties shipped direct to market.
According to the California Rice Commission, rice fields provide food and a resting place for nearly 230 wildlife species, including internationally recognized shorebird habitat and nearly 60 percent of the food for the seven to 10 million ducks and geese that migrate the Pacific Flyway each winter.