DU, NRCS Help Mid-Atlantic Black Ducks

New biologist working with private landowners.

American Black Ducks

© Michael Furtman

American Black Ducks

Ducks Unlimited and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) believe more experts in the field will produce more American black ducks in the air along the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Chase Colmorgen

Thanks to a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, Ducks Unlimited hired new biologist Chase Colmorgen to implement the NRCS Black Duck Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative. Colmorgen is targeting conservation of black duck priority habitat in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia (Delmarva) on agricultural working lands.

Since early 2019, Colmorgen has met with dozens of producers and private landowners to implement NRCS Farm Bill conservation programs, while considering potential new and innovative techniques that could build upon and expand the program successes.

Properties like this in Maryland will be improved for black ducks.

“The response has been greater than we expected,” Colmorgen said. “It’s been enriching to see the benefits Ducks Unlimited has produced by working with NRCS and the enthusiasm of private land owners.”

The black duck holds a special place in the hearts of East Coast waterfowlers, but its population has struggled. Once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America, its numbers declined by greater than 50 percent between the 1950s and 1980s and have stabilized well below the population goal of 640,000 breeding birds.

“The decline is not attributed to a single cause, but habitat loss and degradation are considered primary factors impacting black duck populations,” said Jake McPherson, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Delmarva. “NRCS is one of the biggest conservation agencies in the country, and we saw this as an opportunity to assist and build on the work they’re doing.”

Colmorgen earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resource management from the University of Delaware and is working on his master’s degree there in wildlife ecology. The grant funds the position for at least three years.