Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Characteristics of sandhill crane roosts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta of California

July 1, 2014

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.

Publication Year 2014
Title Characteristics of sandhill crane roosts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta of California
Authors Gary L. Ivey, Bruce D. Dugger, Caroline P. Herziger, Michael L. Casazza, Joseph P. Fleskes
Publication Type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Index ID 70102328
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center