Studying Nesting Cover in California Rice Country

An exciting new project in California rice has us out counting bird nests these days. Ever wonder how this is done?

The primary goal of this effort is to demonstrate how the planting of certain temporary nesting cover fields for ducks and other upland nesting birds on idled rice ground can increase bird populations here in the Sacramento Valley. The cover crop (commonly a plant called “vetch”) is planted in the fall and, if left alone through the following spring and summer, can provide high quality nesting habitat through the entire migratory bird nesting season.

We are engaged in this monitoring activity in conjunction with a conservation grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). We hope that we can eventually use information from this effort to develop a program that will encourage more rice growers to plant valuable nesting cover crops in times when fields are fallowed.

This practice is known improve nesting opportunities for Mallard, American Bittern, Ring-necked Pheasant and Northern Harrier. Our primary partners on this project include Delta Waterfowl, UC Davis, California Waterfowl and NRCS.

We appreciate Delta Waterfowl making funds available to conduct this monitoring and UC Davis providing the field biologists featured in the attached video.