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

Nesting Islands for Giant Canada Geese in West-Central Illinois

Norman Emerick and Douglas Dufford
Illinois Department of Conservation
Galesburg, Illinois 61401

In 1967, the Illinois Department of Conservation (IDOC) initiated a cooperative giant Canada goose (Branta canadensis maxima) restoration project on 28,329 ha (70,000 acres) of privately owned, reclaimed surface mined lands in four west-central Illinois counties. The original releases of 425 birds had increased to 20,000 by the fall of 1987. Further population growth and range expansion appeared to be hindered by limited nesting sites.

Research has shown that geese in West-Central Illinois were over twice as likely to be successful if nests were placed on islands (82% successful) as compared to shorelines (37.5% successful). Therefore, island construction projects were conducted in an effort to improve nesting habitat by providing permanent, low maintenance nesting sites.

A variety of construction methods was used in three wet area types; surface mined land, wetland excavation sites, and in lakes and farm ponds.

In 1984, the IDOC in cooperation with Midland Coal Company, a private landowner, and Western Illinois Sportsmen For Ducks established 30 nesting islands in Knox County on 291 ha (720 acres) of surface mined lands where 3 had existed previously. A backhoe was used to cut off peninsulas, at an average cost per island of $40 and 1 hour construction time.

In Knox and Warren Counties, as partial mitigation for wetlands destroyed during the construction of Highway US 34, 6 new wetlands (0.4 - 1.0 ha; 1.0 - 2.5 acres) were created. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) following IDOC recommendations, had contractors leave soil in place as the wetlands were excavated; 9 islands were created. Completed in 1986, nesting by geese was observed in both 1987 and 1988.

Portions of Warren and Henderson Counties, where 60 ponds (0.1 - 5.6 ha; 0.3 - 14.0 acres) and Citizen's Lakes, Monmouth, IL (2.9 and 5.5 ha; 7.3 - 13.6 acres) existed, were selected in 1987 as a nesting island construction project area. A cooperative arrangement between IDOC and IDOT allowed an IDOT dragline to be used to construct 28 islands in 17 lakes/ponds by mounding soil within the water bodies.

In each project, islands were at least 3 m (10 ft) in diameter, and 1 m (3 ft) above normal water levels; at least 3 m (10 ft) of surface water 1 m (3 ft) in depth separated islands from shore.

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