Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Locating, Constructing, and Managing Islands for Nesting Waterfowl
Maintaining Permanent Records
The relative value of each island or potential island site for nesting waterfowl
should be determined from a field reconnaissance. A permanent record should be
maintained for each island or potential site visited to register location, habitat,
and predator use (Figure 5 and Appendix C). Information
from the record can be stored as a paper file, entered into a computer file, or
both. Any distinct code can be used where only a few islands need to be identified.
Where numerous islands are included in a survey, the Universal Transverse Mercator
(UTM) coordinates taken at the center of the island can be used for the identifier.
UTM coordinates can be determined on 1:24,000 maps from the U.S. Geological Survey,
Denver, CO 80225 and on 1:50,000 maps from Energy, Mines & Resources, Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada K1A 0E9. UTM coordinates should be measured to the nearest 10
meters (32.8 feet) in both the United States and Canada.
|Figure 5. This is an example of a form
that can be used to record information about nesting islands. The same
form found in Appendix C can be photocopied
and used to start a permanent record.
- Information regarding UTM coordinates included under Maintaining
- Use an aerial photo or NWI data to count wetland numbers and acres.
- During the initial island visit or during spring visits to managed
islands record number of predators, scats, and tracks.
- Use a nest card
such as the one developed by the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research
Center (8711 37th Street SE, Jamestown, ND 58401) to record data on
Each year on large islands (≥3.5
acres), and every few years on small islands, predator activity should be monitored
in spring after the wetlands are free of ice. Islands should be examined by walking
in the uplands and along the shoreline to locate fresh animal tracks, trails,
dens, scats, or food remains. Information collected during each visit should be
recorded on the island register (Figure 5). If bare soil or sandy shorelines are
absent on large islands, track plots (3 feet × 6 feet) can be constructed
by removing all vegetation from an area with loamy soil. During each visit, the
plots should be examined for tracks and other predator sign and then raked clean.
Every few years, waterfowl nesting use and nest success should be appraised on
islands by conducting nest searches. Two nest searches should be conducted, including
one in May and one in June, the peak months for waterfowl nesting in the northern
plains. Each nest search should be completed by ≥2
people walking within a few feet of each other through all available nesting habitats.
Searchers should use switches or dragging ropes to help flush nesting hens. Each
nest location should be marked by placing a wire survey flag or slender willow
stake a set distance and direction from the nest bowl. The nest number should
be written on a cloth attached to the marker. The nest location and number should
also be plotted on a map or aerial photo of the island. For each nest, the waterfowl
species, number of eggs, and incubation stage should be recorded. Observers should
also record information on nesting shorebirds or colonial birds encountered during
The best estimate of nest success is obtained when each nest is revisited
every 7 to 10 days. However, when the number of workers or time available is
limited, nests found during the first search can be checked 2 weeks later and
during the second nest search. Nests found on the second search can be checked
once when all nest histories are completed. On small islands with moderate cover,
both active and inactive nests are usually found. Apparent nest success can
be calculated for these situations by dividing the number of successful nests
by total nests. On large islands or on islands with dense vegetative cover,
many nests are not found and the Mayfield estimate of nest success must be used
(Klett et al. 1986).
Previous Section -- Rock Islands
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Colonial Birds and Shorebirds