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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl

Use of Artificial Nesting Islands By Dusky Canada Geese on the Copper River Delta, Alaska

Keith Giezentanner and Donna Kafka
U.S. Forest Service
Cordova Ranger District
Cordova, Alaska 99574


The world's population of dusky Canada geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis) nests on the Copper River Delta in southcentral Alaska. Their population is declining due to habitat changes and low reproductive success. The U.S. Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. have jointly constructed and placed 530 artificial nesting islands of five types to ensure safer, dry nesting habitat. After the peak of hatch, each nest island is inspected for use, success or failure of nesting attempts, and type of predation. Of the 24 nesting attempts in 1987 (256 artificial islands were available), 15 were on sandbag islands, four on fiberglass floaters, two on barrel islands, two on inner tube floaters, and one on a platform island. No nesting attempts were recorded on dish structures. Statistical testing indicates that geese preferred sandbag islands for nesting and avoided platforms and dishes. Sixteen of the 24 attempts (67%) were successful, four nests (16%) were abandoned, and four nests (16%) were destroyed by avian predation. Geese avoided nesting on islands with less than 20% overhead cover. Sandbag islands and fiberglass floaters require the least amount of yearly maintenance. Alaska Department of Fish and Game monitors permanent plots to determine dusky nesting success. In 1987, only 24% of the 262 nesting attempts were successful on the permanent plots. Mammalian predation accounted for half of the nesting failure. No mammalian predation was recorded on artificial nest islands on the Delta. For the 1988 season, approximately 530 artificial islands were available for nesting. Results of the 1988 nesting season will be presented at the conference.
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