Owens Lake Wildlife

The Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program supports habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl and other species that depend on the vegetation in the region. Water applied for dust mitigation has created this habitat for birds and other wildlife that depend on saline lakes such as Owens Lake. Thousands of shorebirds and ducks utilize the shallow flooding areas for feeding as they migrate along the Pacific flyway to and from breeding grounds in the north. It is the greatest concentration of migrating birds in Inyo County. Other alkali meadow species live in the area year-round, including Tule Elk, Owens Valley Vole, and other small mammals and reptiles in managed vegetation dust control areas.


Throughout much of its history, Owens Lake was a haven for birds. During annual migrations, waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds stopped here to rest and feed. Now the City of Los Angeles has transformed Owens Lake into an important migratory stopover location once again, and dust mitigation efforts have created a productive habitat for birds and other wildlife in the Owens Lake area.

In spring and fall, tens of thousands of shorebirds, waterfowl, and other migratory bird species stop in the area to feed on various bird delicacies like alkali flies and brine shrimp. Thousands of western and least sandpipers stop here in spring before traveling north to breed on the tundra in Alaska and Canada. Returning in fall, these small shorebirds often log over 5,000 miles during their annual trek! American avocets, snowy plovers, and black-necked stilts stay even longer, remaining to nest and raise their young. Northern shovelers and other waterfowl arrive in autumn, as they leave their breeding areas to the north. Some of the birds travel from as far away as Canada and South America. Among the species spotted in the area are the peregrine falcon, horned lark, ruddy duck, snowy plover, western sandpiper, california gull, and many more.

Owens Lake Bird Surveys

Twice yearly the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, our staff, local agencies, and volunteers record all bird species and individuals in the 48-square mile Owens Lake Dust Control Project Area plus Sulfate Well. Called the “Owens Lake Big Day Bird Surveys,” the counts are conducted each spring and fall when many birds stop, feed and rest at Owens Lake during migration. One of the first lake-wide surveys of the bird populations of Owens Lake was in 2008 by the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society and Owens Lake Committee. 

Data from these surveys helps guide wildlife habitat management decisions while water conservation efforts are implemented at Owens Lake, and while dust control requirements continue to be met.

Owens Lake Bird Festival

The Owens Lake Bird Festival celebrates the thousands of migratory birds that stop at Owens Lake. The annual festival offers public tours covering birding, botany, photography, geology, local history and more. The Owens Lake Bird Festival began in 2014, conceived and organized by Mike Prather from the nonprofit Friends of the Inyo in partnership with LADWP to celebrate the return of the birds to Owens Lake. Owens Lake was is designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of International Importance.

For further information on the event we invite you to visit our partners at the Friends of the Inyo

Code of Birding Ethics

Provided by the American Birding ® Association. Click image to view.