Food habits of northern pintails (Anas acuta) were investigated on 3 national wildlife refuges in the western portion of the Sacramento Valley, California, from August to March 1979-82. Pintails consumed 97% (aggregate % dry wt) plant food during diurnal foraging on national wildlife refuge rice, summer-irrigated, and summer-dry habitats from August through January. Invertebrate use increased to 28.9-65.6% of the diet in these habitats during February and March. Rice, swamp timothy (Heleochloa schoenoides), flatsedges (Cyperus spp.), common barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crusgalli), southern naiad (Najas guadalupensis), and smartweed (Polygonum spp.) seeds, miscellaneous vegetation, snails (Gastropoda), and midge (Diptera) and water beetle (Coleoptera) larvae were most important. These foods usually were taken proportional to or greater than availability. Rice was the most important food of pintails feeding nocturnally off the refuges in harvested rice fields from October through January (99.7%) and February and March (63%; barnyardgrass formed 31% of the diet). In August and October, some pintails consumed invertebrates or bulrush (Scirpus spp. ) seedlings in marshes soon after feeding in refuge rice (Aug) or harvested commercial rice fields (Oct), thereby increasing dietary protein. In late winter, females and males obtained similar (P > 0.05) percentages of invertebrates from refuge habitats. Important dietary seeds and invertebrates contained high protein or metabolizable energy content. Management should maintain adequate seed production in fall and mid-winter and invertebrate biomass in late winter.
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Fall and winter foods of northern pintails in the Sacramento Valley, California