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To determine relative importance of habitats available in the Grassland Ecological Area (GEA) to wintering female northern pintails, Anas acuta, we studied habitat use relative to availability (i.e., habitat selection) in the GEA during September through March, 1991-94 for 196 Hatch-Year (HY) and 221 After-Hatch-Year (AHY) female pintails that were radio tagged during August-early October in the GEA (n = 239), other San Joaquin Valley areas (n = 132), or other Central Valley areas (n = 46). Habitat availability and use varied among seasons and years, but pintails always selected shallow and, except on hunting days, open habitats. Swamp timothy, Heleochloa schoenoides, marsh was the most available, used, and selected habitat. Watergrass, Echinochloa crusgalli, marsh in the GEA was used less than available at night in contrast to previous studies in other SJV areas. Preferred late-winter habitats were apparently lacking in the GEA, at least relative to in the Sacramento Valley and Delta where most pintails moved to in December each year. Impacts on pintails of the increasing practice of managing marshes for increased emergent vegetation to attract other species should be monitored. Shallow, open habitats that produce seeds and invertebrates available to pintails in late winter would help maintain pintail abundance in the GEA.
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Habitat selection by female northern pintails wintering in the Grassland Ecological Area, California