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Selection of flooded agricultural fields and other landscapes by female northern pintails wintering in Tulare Basin, California

Wildlife Society Bulletin

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Abstract

Habitat selection and use are measures of relative importance of habitats to wildlife and necessary information for effective wildlife conservation. To measure the relative impor- tance of flooded agricultural fields and other landscapes to northern pintails (Anas acuta) wintering in Tulare Basin (TB), California, we radiotagged female pintails during late August-early October, 1991-1993 in TB and other San Joaquin Valley areas and deter- mined use and selection of these TB landscapes through March each year. Availability of landscape and field types in TB changed within and among years. Pintail use and selec- tion (based upon use-to-availability log ratios) of landscape and field types differed among seasons, years, and diel periods. Fields flooded after harvest and before planting (i.e., pre-irrigated) were the most available, used, and selected landscape type before the hunting season (Prehunt). Safflower was the most available, used, and-except in 1993, when pre-irrigated fallow was available-selected pre-irrigated field type during Prehunt. Pre-irrigated barley-wheat received 19-22% of use before hunting season, but selection varied greatly among years and diel periods. During and after hunting season, managed marsh was the most available, used, and, along with floodwater areas, selected landscape type; pre-irrigated cotton and alfalfa were the least selected field types and accounted for <13% of pintail use. Agricultural drainwater evaporation ponds, sewage treatment ponds, and reservoirs accounted for 42-48% of flooded landscape available but were lit- tle used and least selected. Exodus of pintails from TB coincided with drying of pre-irri- gated fallow, safflower, and barley-wheat fields early in winter, indicating that preferred habitats were lacking in TB during late winter. Agriculture conservation programs could improve TB for pintails by increasing flooding of fallow and harvested safflower and grain fields. Conservation of remaining wetlands should concentrate on increasing the amount and productivity of marsh that is shallow-flooded as pre-irrigated grain fields dry. If pin- tails were provided with adequate preferred field and marsh habitats, including hunt-day sanctuaries, contaminant risks associated with exposure to drainwater evaporation ponds probably should remain low for these waterfowl even if their abundance in TB increased.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Selection of flooded agricultural fields and other landscapes by female northern pintails wintering in Tulare Basin, California
Series title:
Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume:
31
Issue:
3
Year Published:
2003
Language:
English
Publisher:
The Wildlife Society
Contributing office(s):
Western Ecological Research Center
Description:
11 p.
First page:
793
Last page:
803