eWestern BirdsThe Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists
Vol. 33, No. 1
Western Field Ornithologists
Winter Foraging Habitat of Greater Sandhill Cranes in Northern California
Carroll D. Littlefield
ABSTRACT: In the upper Butte basin (Butte, Colusa, Glenn, and Sutter counties) of California’s Sacramento Valley, wintering Greater Sandhill Cranes select unaltered harvested rice stubble most consistently for foraging. They feed in burned and flooded rice stubble for brief periods; their use of such fields decreases dramatically by January and remains low thereafter. Few cranes forage in rice stubble disked in autumn. Recently planted winter wheat attracts large numbers of cranes from the time of planting until shortly after seedling emergence but not after early January. Disked corn stubble is used sporadically, primarily in late January and February just before cranes migrate in spring. Grazed grasslands also support cranes, mostly after the onset of winter rains. Foraging habitat for cranes in the basin is currently ample, but continuing changes in agricultural practices may result in future food shortages.