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

Waterfowl Use of Man-Made Nesting Structures in South Dakota

Marcy Haworth and Kenneth F. Higgins
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Dakota Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota 57007


Artificial nesting structures are currently being used by various agencies to offset the decline in waterfowl production due to predation losses and degradation of nesting habitats. However, the various structure types available are not equally attractive to nesting waterfowl. This study looked at 3 types of artificial nesting structures--open topped cone baskets, round hay bales, and concrete culverts--and evaluated their use, success, and production in South Dakota. Structure type and site characteristics were correlated to occupancy rates and nesting success. Sixty-eight baskets and 205 bales were monitored during 1986, and 154 baskets, 200 bales, and 20 culverts were monitored in 1987. These results are from the first 2 years of a 6-year study.

A total of 239 waterfowl nests were found for both years combined. Primary nesting species were mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), redheads (Aythya americana), and giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis). Occupancy rates averaged 23%, 45.6%, and 25% for baskets, bales, and culverts, respectively. Nesting success averaged 68.6%, 35.5%, and 66.7% for baskets, bales, and culverts, respectively. Production of young averaged 1.08, 0.81, and 0.85 young/structure for baskets, bales, and culverts, respectively. Structure and site characteristics found to be significant (P < 0.05) included structure angle, water depth, distances to shore, open water, closest structure, percentages of surrounding plant species, plant species coverage within the wetland basin, and surrounding land use.

When compared with upland nesting studies, artificial nesting structures showed nesting success rates of 2-4 times greater. With greater knowledge of preferred structure types and site characteristics, it may be possible to increase occupancy rates, thereby, increasing waterfowl numbers, at least on a local level.


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