North American Crane Working Group


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Taylor, J.P., and L.M. Smith. Sandhill crane use of managed Chufa Wetlands in New Mexico. In Chavez-Ramirez, F, ed. 2005. Proceedings of the Ninth North American Crane Workshop, Jan 17-20, 2003. Sacramento, California: North American Crane Working Group. Pp. 167-172.


Reproduced by permission of the NACWG.


Natural wetland food plants help meet energetic requirements for sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis). Chufa (Cyperus esculentus) tubers were found to be a prominent item in the winter diet of cranes in New Mexico and Texas. In 1996 and 1997, chufa production was compared among mowing, discing, and sustained-flooding treatments intended to enhance chufa tuber growth. Sandhill crane numbers were monitored on wetlands during winter flooding to determine treatment preferences. No differences in sandhill crane use of treated wetlands were found in 1996, however in 1997, crane use was higher on disked field than sustained flood fields with mowed fields recording similar use levels as other treatments. Regression analysis also was used to explore the relationship between crane use and above and belowground food production. Chufa mass and fall panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum) seed were positively related to crane use. We hypothesize cranes used wetlands where high biomass of these above and belowground food items was available to efficiently meet daily energetic needs. Disking wetlands at a depth of 5 cm about 30 days following initial wetland drawdown may be an effective treatment to expand chufa production and attract sandhill cranes.