Ducks Unlimited Research on the Prairies

In the field with DU researchers

A DU biologists aids interns as they document a newly-discovered nest

A DU biologists aids interns as they document a newly-discovered nest

Ducks Unlimited bases its conservation programs on the results of scientific research and the variety of habitat waterfowl need to be healthy and reproduce. Although DU has completed a wide range of studies, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes. Through scientific research, DU ensures that every dollar invested in conservation programs is utilized as efficiently as possible.



Ducks Unlimited and the University of North Dakota (UND) are partnering on a research project. UND interns search for duck nests on DU's Coteau Ranch and The Nature Conservancy's Davis Ranch, both near Bismarck, North Dakota. They place 24-hour video surveillance cameras at nest sites to give us an inside view of the nest. The information gathered from the cameras helps researchers study the nesting behavior of blue-winged teal and mallards. They also research depredation, the term used when other animals destroy the nests to eat the eggs. 

The interns also monitor small wetlands on the ranch to understand seasonal changes. They measure wetland salinity, depth and vegetation from May until they dry up at the end of the summer. 

For the past 4 years, DU biologists surveyed how oil and gas developments in the dense-nesting areas of the Prairie Pothole Region may impact waterfowl breeding, nesting and brood rearing. Results from this research should be available soon.

 Pilot Study:

In 2018 DU and partners are conducting a pilot study to understand the way wetlands in croplands impact breeding waterfowl from the Prairie Pothole Regions in Minnesota and Iowa. Field researchers will look for clues in brood size, aquatic invertebrates, and neighboring habitat to see if cropland-dominant areas impact waterfowl. This pilot study will grow to include North and South Dakota in 2019-2020. 

Where is this research?

This year's research takes place in the North Dakota portion of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) due to the high densities of breeding pairs and importance of the breeding area to North American waterfowl populations. Nearly 50 percent of North America's waterfowl population breeds in the PPR. Learning how landscape level modifications impact breeding pairs helps to focus Ducks Unlimited's conservation efforts.

Participate in a citizen-science project

Ducks Unlimited wants the public to see the importance of wildlife conservation. The partnership between Ducks Unlimited and the University of North Dakota at the Coteau Ranch is part of a larger citizen-science initiative. The university's Wildlife@ Home program invites non-scientists to help review the nestcam footage projects across North Dakota. This project is one of three goals for the 2012 North American Waterfowl Management Plan: Increasing the number of conservationists and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands conservation.  

To get involved, check out the links and learn more about the DU and University of North Dakota nesting camera project.



Past research updates: