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Non-Profit Spotlight: Delta Wind Birds

For the Birds

Article by Hal Mitchell, wildlife biologist

Photography by Larry Pace

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

“The restlessness of shorebirds, their kinship with the distance and swift seasons, the wistful signal of their voices down the long coastlines of the world make them, for me, the most affecting of wild creatures. I think of them as birds of the wind, as ‘wind birds.’” — Peter Matthiessen, 1967

Delta Wind Birds is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting and creating wetlands, fostering ecotourism, and raising awareness of migratory birds and their habitats. Projects often focus on shorebirds (or “wind birds”) in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (or “Delta”), although their work also benefits many other species such as ducks, herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills, storks, terns, and warblers. The “wind birds” are some of the most impressive avian species in the world, with many making an annual round-trip from the Arctic Circle to southern South America covering 8,000+ miles one way. Unfortunately, nearly half of all North American shorebird species currently face declining populations due to complex causes including the lack of high-quality habitat. 

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, or Delta, lies along the eastern edge of the Mississippi Flyway and was historically a vast matrix of complex wetlands. Agricultural development of the region has dramatically reduced wetland habitat, but much of the modern agricultural landscape can easily provide attractive stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds, often within the framework of normal agricultural production practices. In working with landowners, the group is able to create these habitats on working landscapes in the Mississippi Delta. 

Incentives for creation of temporary wetlands on agricultural fields during fall are available to farmers through the Farm Bill with Delta Wind Birds providing supplements to encourage adoption of these practices. In addition to working with landowners the organization has acquired The Delta Wind Birds Sky Lake Nature Reserve that encompasses a 14-acre site on the shore of Sky Lake, a natural oxbow lake in Humphreys County, Mississippi. It consists of cypress-tupelo wetlands and adjacent woodlands, open water, old fields, and sometimes mudflats. 

Delta Wind Birds regularly holds events ranging from educational workshops to help hone your bird identification skills, guided paddling tours around the Sky Lake Reserve, birding trips to the Delta in the spring and winter months, and more. For more information, visit

  • A semipalmated plover among the thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl that stopped at the habitat site near Indianola, MS.
  • These birds depend on high-quality shallow water and mudflat stopover to fuel up during their migrations.
  • Delta Wind Birds Sky Lake Nature Reserve is open to the public for all forms of nature enjoyment, such as birding, botany, photography, and kayaking/canoeing.
  • Excellent temporary wetland habitat for migratory water birds can be made on working lands, e.g. by flooding a corn field in fall after harvest.