Grazing is thought to be incompatible with nesting by dabbling ducks (Anas spp.), but this belief is based on little data. We therefore conducted a 2-year, replicated field experiment to determine whether the habitat requirements of nesting ducks could be met on uplands managed by rotational grazing (1 Jul–1 Nov) in the northern San Joaquin Valley, California, USA. Grazed fields had shorter vegetation than ungrazed fields throughout the winter, but vegetation height did not differ by the beginning of the nesting season in late March, and by the end of the nesting season in late May, previously grazed fields had taller vegetation than did ungrazed fields. In 1996, densities of duck nests were >3 times higher in grazed than in ungrazed fields (least-squares means [± 1 SE]: grazed = 2.18 [0.34] nests/ha, ungrazed = 0.59 [0.34] nests/ha), but nest densities were substantially lower in 1997 and did not differ between treatment groups (grazed = 0.65 [0.32] nests/ha, ungrazed = 0.39 [0.32] nests/ha). Mayfield nest success did not differ between grazed fields (5.3%) and ungrazed fields (2.9%). We conclude that rotational grazing was successful in providing summer nesting habitat for dabbling ducks, and we recommend that it be considered for other managed habitats within the Central Valley, California, USA.
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Vol. 71 • No. 3