Ricefields are important foraging habitats for waterfowl and other waterbirds in primary North American wintering regions. We conducted a large-scale experiment to test effects of post-harvest ricefield treatment, winter water management, and temporal factors on availabilities of rice, moist-soil plant seeds, aquatic invertebrates, and green forage in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), Mississippi, USA, fall-winter 1995-1997. Our results revealed that a large decrease in rice grain occurred between harvest and early winter (79-99%), which, if generally true throughout the MAV, would have critical implications on foraging carrying capacity of ricefields for migrating and wintering waterbirds. During the remainder of winter, food resources generally were similar among treatment combinations. An exception was biomass of aquatic invertebrates, which demonstrated potential to increase by late winter in ricefields that remained flooded. We offer revised calculations of foraging carrying capacity for waterfowl in MAV ricefields and recommend continuing research and management designed to increase availability of residual rice and aquatic invertebrates in winter.
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Waterbirds foods in winter-managed ricefields in Mississippi