Cover photo for Bird Returns Delta Farmlands

Bird Returns Delta Farmlands

The Nature Conservancy

Closed November 15, 2021

The BirdReturns-Delta Farmlands Program provides incentive payments via an open bidding process for farmers to flood their farm fields to enhance habitat for migratory waterbirds during times of year when crops are not being grown. Because the targeted birds require specific habitat conditions, farmers selected for the program will be required to manage shallow water flooding on their fields for a minimum of five weeks, consisting of a one-week flood up, a minimum of two weeks of flooding, and a two-week drawdown period. To qualify, fields must also have little to no vegetation or crop residue, and minimal tillage to ensure waste grain is available for birds. The program will take place December 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022, with a preference for longer enrollments.


Farmland in the project area (See map) is eligible unless

  • It's within five miles of major airports

  • It has more than 20% cover of standing stubble or other vegetation that is greater than 4 inches tall

  • It's smaller than 30 acres


Enrolled land must meet the following habitat requirements

  • Flooding: Flood and maintain depths between 2-4 inches throughout flooding period

    • In sloping fields, the shallow end should be maintained at approximately 2 inches; the deep end may be greater than 4 inches; however, if possible, cross-field berms should be installed to maximize shallow depths

    • Fields that are uniformly deeper that 4 inches are ineligible

  • Post-harvest stubble management required – a combination of any of the following post-harvest crop stubble treatments and incorporation practices may be used to meet our field condition requirements: burn, chop, roll, bale, single pass disc, single pass chisel, or stomp (see below for examples of suitable and unsuitable conditions)

  • Gradual drawdown required: after the required flooding period (one week of flood up, and a minimum of two weeks of flooding), reduce water levels incrementally over two weeks

Application Instructions

To apply for the program, submit a bid specifying the acres and duration you are willing to flood, along with the dollar amount per acre that you need to recover your costs for creating the habitat.

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November 15, 2021


The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Financial Instrument


Image Credit

Andreas Weilguny

Updated August 26, 2022

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