Northern pintail Anas acuta (hereafter pintail) populations wintering within Suisun Marsh, a large estuarine managed wetland near San Francisco Bay, California,USA, have declined markedly over the last four decades. The reasons for this decline are unclear. Information on how hunting and other factors influence the selection of vegetation types and sanctuaries would be beneficial to manage pintail populations in SuisunMarsh. During 1991-1993, we radio-marked and relocated female pintails (individuals: N = 203, relocations: N = 7,688) within Suisun Marsh to investigate habitat selection during the non-breeding months (winter). We calculated selection ratios for different vegetation types and for sanctuaries, and examined differences in those ratios between hunting season (i.e. hunting and non-hunting), age (hatchyear and after-hatch-year), and time of day (daylight or night hours). We found that diel patterns in selection were influenced by hunting disturbance. For example, prior to the hunting season and during daylight hours, pintails selected areas dominated by brass buttons Cotula coronopifolia, a potentially important food source, usually outside of sanctuary boundaries. However, during the hunting season, pintails did not select brass buttons during daylight hours, but instead highly selected permanent pools, mostly within sanctuaries. Also, during the hunting season, pintails showed strong selection for brass buttons at night. Sanctuaries provided more area of permanent water pools than within hunting areas and appeared to function as important refugia during daylight hours of the hunting season. Wildlife managers should encourage large protected permanent pools adjacent to hunted wetlands to increase pintail numbers within wetland environments and responsibly benefit hunting opportunities while improving pintail conservation.
Additional publication details
Hunting influences the diel patterns in habitat selection by northern pintails Anas acuta