A Cost-Effective Way to Help Nesting Ducks

Delta Waterfowl's latest online feature contains a striking stat:

For the duck population to expand, 15 to 20 percent of those nests must hatch, but across much of the prairie breeding grounds, nest success is typically just 10 percent--of the rest, most are destroyed by predators like fox, raccoons and skunks.

So, even if predators destroy eight out of 10 nests, the result is still more ducks to enjoy and hunt. Given these numbers, how can anyone argue that predators aren't having a substantial impact on waterfowl populations?

The Delta story, a profile of biologist Matt Chouinard, suggests cost-effective ways in which concerned waterfowlers can help nesting waterfowl, including the use of hen houses:

Large, undisturbed blocks of grass help buffer duck nests from predators, but with the exception of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), nesting cover across most of the breeding grounds is limited to wetland margins, fence lines and ditches, what waterfowl managers call “death traps” because they’re so easy for predators to hunt.

Matt says nest success in western Minnesota is often well below the maintenance level--just 5 percent in some places--but the odds swing wildly in favor of ducks using artificial nesting structures. The success rate for mallards using the Hen Houses Matt erected is a whopping 82 percent. ...

... According to his research, a Hen House produces as many extra ducks each year as 26 acres of restored grass in western Minnesota.

Given the cost of purchasing or taking easements on land, Hen Houses are easily one of the most cost-effective of the tools available to waterfowl managers.

Emphasis mine. According to Delta, the materials required to build a hen house can be obtained for $50 or less. Even if you aren't handy, you can help by making a donation to Delta's Hen House Program.

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