Date of this Version
Proceedings of the North American Crane Workshop 13:8
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) region of California is an important wintering region for 2 subspecies of Pacific Flyway sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis): the Central Valley Population of the greater sandhill crane (G. c. tabida) and the Pacific Flyway Population of the lesser sandhill crane (G. c. canadensis). During the winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09 we conducted roost counts, roadside surveys, aerial surveys, and tracked radio-marked birds to locate and assess important habitats for roosting cranes in the Delta. Of the 69 crane night roosts we identified, 35 were flooded cropland sites and 34 were wetland sites. We found that both larger individual roost sites and larger complexes of roost sites supported larger peak numbers of cranes. Water depth used by roosting cranes averaged 10 cm (range 3-21 cm, mode 7 cm) and was similar between subspecies. We found that cranes avoided sites that were regularly hunted or had high densities of hunting blinds. We suggest that managers could decide on the size of roost sites to provide for a given crane population objective using a ratio of 1.5 cranes/ha. The fact that cranes readily use undisturbed flooded cropland sites makes this a viable option for creation of roost habitat. Because hunting disturbance can limit crane use of roost sites we suggest these 2 uses should not be considered readily compatible. However, if the management objective of an area includes waterfowl hunting, limiting hunting to low blind densities and restricting hunting to early morning may be viable options for creating a crane-compatible waterfowl hunt program.