The Relationship of Wood Duck Brood Density to River Habitat Factors

To better understand habitat features on rivers that are important to wood ducks (Aix sponsa), I measured brood density for sections of 12 rivers (329 km) in Tennessee nightlighting during spring 1990 and 1991. Sixteen habitat variables were evaluated for each river and the relationship to brood density was tested. Brood density ranged from 0 to 1.8/km (x = 0.7 on unchannelized rivers). No broods were found on 61 km of channelized rivers. Brood density was positively correlated to aquatic vegetation, mud flats, logs and limbs in the water, large overhanging trees, rapids, and islands and was negatively correlated to exposed mud banks and small trees. River channelization and certain agricultural practices degraded riparian habitat and had a negative effect on brood density. Where habitat for wood duck broods is to be maintained or improved, streams should be protected from channelization and from land management practices which remove tree cover and destabilize riverbanks.

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