Utilization Of Agricultural Wetlands In A Mississippi River Bottomland By Wood Duck And Hooded Merganser Broods

Forty artificial nesting cavities were placed in 5 wetland areas containing no natural tree cavities suitable as nest sites for wood ducks (Aix sponsa) or hooded mergansers (Mergus cucullatus). These wetlands were surrounded by agricultural fields; wetland sizes were between 0.4 ha and 10.6 ha. In 1976,5 successful wood duck nests were observed. In 1977, II successful wood duck nests and 4 successful hooded merganser nests were observed. Visual searches failed to discern the presence of broods or their hens after the days on which the broods exited their nest boxes. Two wood duck hens followed by radio tracking led their broods away from the broods' natal agricultural wetlands to larger, more isolated wetlands that contained more aquatic vegetation. Several comparisons were made between the largest agricultural wetland (which produced 16 duck broods) and a nearby wetland of similar morphology but surrounded by a bottomland hardwood forest. In comparison to the forest-surrounded wetland, the agricultural wetland was much more turbid and contained fewer taxa of aquatic plants that provided less cover. The relative lack of aquatic herbaceous plants in the wetland, which was typical of the other agricultural wetlands studied, may have been an important factor in the lack of brood-usage of the wetland.

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