Paddy fields have traditionally been viewed as the key foraging habitats for the endangered crested ibis (Nipponia nippon). With the population of this species now increasing, its distribution has expanded to both lowland areas and outside the nature reserve. However, little is known about the current foraging habitat preferences of these birds, especially during winter. In this research, a total of 54 used sites and 50 unused sites were investigated during winter from December 2011 to January 2012. The results of logistic regression analysis indicate that soil softness, human disturbance, and distance to the nearest road were important factors. For the site plots of winter-flooded paddy fields, the birds prefer the paddy fields with higher coverage of vegetation, except softer foraging sites and lower human-related disturbance. In lowland areas, the size of winter-flooded paddy fields was not a limiting factor, due to the availability of other wetlands capable of providing abundant food. The micro-habitat characteristics were important indicators of foraging habitat quality rather than the size of winter-flooded paddy fields, and the food accessibility may play an important role in the process of foraging habitat use. We suggest the improvement of the foraging micro-habitat and environmental characteristics would be effective in ensuring the availability of food in the dispersed lowland areas. The local people still needed to be encouraged and compensated by their single-cropping cultivation, ploughed the paddy fields after harvesting and irrigated them with shallow water flooded in the original core areas of the nature reserve.
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Vol. 33 • No. 4