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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Collecting and Analyzing Data from Duck Nesting Studies

Photo of duck nest.

Northern Prairie has a long history of studying nest success of upland nesting ducks. Over the years, we have developed standardized procedures for collecting and analyzing these types of data. Data forms and instruction manuals developed by the Center are used widely by biologists throughout the northern Great Plains and elsewhere. Extensive use of standardized procedures led to a cooperative effort among Federal, State, Private, and other Non-Government Organizations that has allowed us to compile the Nest File, a data base of more than 120,000 duck nests spanning 45+ years in the northern Great Plains.

The data forms and instruction manuals are available to interested cooperators free of charge from Northern Prairie. The data forms can also be viewed and the instruction manuals downloaded from this site. In addition, computer programs for error-checking, summarizing, and analyzing data recorded on these forms can be downloaded. These programs require BASE SAS and SAS/STAT (SAS Institute, Inc.) software.

For additional information, comments, or questions, please contact Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center at

For information on techniques used to study duck nest success, check out the resource Techniques for Studying Nest Success of Ducks in Upland Habitats in the Prairie Pothole Region, which can be found elsewhere at this site.

Data Forms and Instruction Manuals

Habitat/Nest Record Form

The Habitat/Nest Record Form is used for recording basic information needed for estimating nest success (probability that at least 1 egg hatches), and supplemental information pertaining to the nest and the surrounding habitat.  [ Download Form and Instruction Manual ]

Graphic: reduced view of Habitat/Nest Record Form.

Nest Depredation Form

Over the years it has become evident that nest success (probability that at least 1 egg hatches) generally is low and that predation is the principal cause of nest failures. A frequently asked question is: What predator species are most responsible for nest failures?

In an effort to answer that question, staff of Northern Prairie gathered information over a 20-year period on patterns of depredation of duck nests by the 11 principal species and species-groups of duck nest predators in the Prairie Pothole Region. Their approach was to have field personnel quantify evidence left by predators at depredated nests, and later compare those data with verification data gathered about the depredation patterns of the different predator species. Types of data that were useful for determining predator species and could be easily quantified were identified. A format for recording data evolved and was tested in field studies. This culminated in the development of the Nest Depredation Form, a manual for its use, and a video to supplement the manual.

In 1994 the Northern Prairie Nest File was expanded to include data recorded on the Nest Depredation Form. We now offer this form to all Nest File cooperators. Use of the Nest Depredation Form is optional, but we strongly encourage its use. Data submitted on the Nest Depredation Form will be archived in the Nest File along with information from the Nest Record. We think that over time this information will prove to be a valuable addition to the Nest File and will be used to make management decisions.  [ Download Form and Instruction Manual ]

Graphic: reduced view of Nest Depredation Form.


Software for error-checking, summarizing, and analyzing data recorded on the Habitat/Nest Record and Nest Depredation Forms. These programs require access to BASE SAS and SAS/STAT (SAS Institute, Inc.) software.  [ Download Software ]

This resource should be cited as:
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.  2001.  Collecting 
     and analyzing data from duck nesting studies.  Jamestown, 
     ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 12MAY03).

Downloading Instructions -- Instructions on downloading and extracting files from this site.
(Download) (516K) -- Collecting and Analyzing Data from Duck Nesting Studies Installation: Extract all files and open nesttool.htm in a web browser.

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