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Distribution and movements of female northern pintails radiotagged in San Joaquin Valley, California

January 1, 2002

To improve understanding of northern pintail (Anas acuta) distribution in central California (CCA), we radiotagged 191 Hatch-Year (HY) and 228 After-Hatch-Year (AHY) female northern pintails during late August-early October, 1991-1993, in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) and studied their movements through March each year. Nearly all (94.3%) wintered in CCA, but 5.7% went to southern California, Mexico, or unknown areas; all that went south left before hunting season. Of the 395 radiotagged pintails that wintered in CCA, 83% flew from the SJV north to other CCA areas (i.e., Sacramento Valley [SACV], Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta [Delta], Suisun Marsh, San Francisco Bay) during September-January; most went during December. Movements coincid- ed with start of hunting seasons and were related to pintail age, mass, capture location, study year, and weather. Among pintails with less than average mass, AHY individuals tended to leave the SJV earlier than HY individuals. Weekly distribution was similar among capture locations and years but a greater percentage of pintails radiotagged in Tulare Basin (south part of SJV) were known to have (10.3% vs. 0.9%) or probably (13.8% vs. 4.6%) wintered south of CCA than pintails radiotagged in northern SJV areas (i.e., Grassland Ecological Area [EA] and Mendota Wildlife Area [WA]). Also, a greater percentage of SJV pintails went to other CCA areas before hunting season in the drought year of 1991-1992 than later years (10% vs. 3-5%). The percent of radiotagged pintails from Grass- land EA known to have gone south of CCA also was greater during 1991-1992 than later years (2% vs. 0%), but both the known (19% vs. 4%) and probable (23% vs. 12%) percent from Tulare Basin that went south was greatest during 1993-1994, when availability of flooded fields there was lowest. The probability of pintails leaving the SJV was 57% (95% CI = 8-127%) greater on days with than without rain, and more movements per bird out of SJV occurred in years with more rain and fog but fewer days with southerly winds. Movements by pintails and changes in pintail distributions, direct recovery distributions, and harvest rates suggest the disproportionate decline of pin- tails in Tulare Basin was due to a lower percentage of pintails moving there in fall and a greater percentage or ear- lier movements north and south out of Tulare Basin. With fewer in Tulare Basin to replace Grasslands EA pintails going north in December, pintail abundance in the northern SJV declined during late winter. Changes in move- ment patterns correspond to habitat loss in Tulare Basin and increased habitats in SACV and western mainland Mexico. Habitat improvements, especially in Tulare Basin, that increase food, sanctuary, and winter survival would probably help restore pintails throughout the SJV.

Publication Year 2002
Title Distribution and movements of female northern pintails radiotagged in San Joaquin Valley, California
DOI 10.2307/3802880
Authors Joseph P. Fleskes, Robert L. Jarvis, David S. Gilmer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 1008243
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center