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Nest Cover Habitat

The Maximizing Waterbird Habitat on CA Ricelands RCPP Project can provide financial and technical assistance to establish and manage cover for nesting habitat on ricelands.

Vegetative cover can provide valuable nesting and foraging habitat for breeding waterfowl, upland birds, waders, Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls, Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens and others.

Financial assistance for NRCS Conservation Practice 645 - Upland Wildlife Habitat Management, is available through this RCPP project to leave rice fields undisturbed until at least July 15th, after the nesting season, and to monitor and manage nesting habitat on fallowed or idled rice fields that have existing cover, a cover crop or resident vegetation, in place as of April 15th.

Growers are encouraged to seek technical assistance for growing cover crops from NRCS, crop advisors, or your local cooperative extension office.  Financial assistance for NRCS Conservation Practice, 340 - Cover Crop, is available through this RCPP project.

Overview of Nest Cover Habitat Management Requirements

  1. The enrolled field must remain undisturbed until July 15th.
  2. Availability of brood water with in 1/2 mile of fields.
  3. Fields must contain vegetative cover on at least 60 percent of the field.
  4. In-field vegetation must reach an average height of 8 inches.
  5. Livestock exclusion from fields.
  6. Producer monitoring at designated times and intervals.

Planning Considerations

  • Fields must have standing vegetation to meet baseline requirements for nest cover habitat management. This vegetation can either be a seasonally seeded cover crop, or volunteer, resident vegetation from existing seed bank in the soil.
  • It is important that broods have access to water after hatching. Therefore, it is critical that there will be water nearby through the end of the breeding season. This water can be brood ponds, wetlands, irrigation ditch water, or flooded rice. Fields managed for nest cover must have reliable brood water with in a half mile and fields with closer brood water will receive higher ranking points in the application evaluation process.
  • Recommended resident vegetation include hairy vetch, purple vetch, canary grass, or mixtures including wheat, oat, barley, triticale, rye or other small grain grass species. Additional requirements must be met for cover crops established with financial assistance.
  • Priority nest cover areas includes land that have had historic high nesting densities of waterfowl and shorebirds, areas adjacent to planted rice, and areas near permanent protected habitat (e.g. NWR, WA, Presley and Easements).