Wetland Conservation and Management for the Texas Central Coast

Agricultural Wetlands

Agricultural lands can provide important habitat for waterfowl and other wetland birds. Fields used for rice production in the Central Coast of Texas are commonly managed to attract ducks and geese in the fall and winter as the existing infrastructure (levees, water control structures, etc.) provides water depths suitable for foraging waterfowl. Geese and ducks use harvested rice fields and fallow rice fields to forage on waste rice, seeds from native plants (weeds), and fresh green shoots. Migrating shorebirds are attracted to the bare mudflats exposed from receding water levels to feed on insects. Wading birds (egrets, herons and ibis) and waterbirds (moorhens, gallinules and rails) feed on aquatic insects, amphibians and small fish that inhabit flooded rice fields during the growing season.

Greater white-fronted geese foraging in harvested rice on the Texas Central Coast.

Opportunities for agricultural wetlands also exist for harvested milo fields in the Central Coast. Mottled ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks and migratory waterfowl are known to forage in milo fields flooded after heavy rainfall. After harvest, the cut milo plants are capable of sprouting and producing a second seed head with adequate rainfall or flash irrigation. While this second crop of milo is not economically valuable for a farmer to harvest, it can provide an additional food source for waterfowl. Ideal project sites are those that include topographic features such as shallow depressions, swales or slopes where runoff from rainfall or irrigation water can collect. A levee and water control structure may be necessary to maximize surface area of water and duration of flooding.

Snow geese foraging in a flooded milo field in Texas.