Ducks nesting in Iowa's Prairie Pothole Region will find improved habitat this spring in Ducks Unlimited's new Kiowa Marsh Project.

The project recently restored five prairie potholes on the Samper Tract of Kiowa Marsh Wildlife Management Area in Sac County. These small wetlands, surrounded by 80 acres of prairie, provide ideal nesting habitat. Shallow prairie wetlands surrounded by grassland are favored by nesting ducks because they provide breeding hens with excellent foraging conditions in preparation for egg laying.

"Waterfowl managers have long known that by increasing the number of small wetlands on a prairie landscape, they can attract and hold more breeding ducks," said Michael Shannon, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Iowa.

These pothole wetlands provide excellent habitat for nesting ducks, but once a hen has hatched her brood, she must take them to larger, more secure wetlands that provide safety from predators. The Kiowa Marsh project will address those needs as well. In phase two of the project, Ducks Unlimited will enhance an adjacent 64-acre semi-permanent marsh to provide habitat for developing ducklings and food for other migrating waterfowl. That phase will be ready in time for spring migration.

The Kiowa Marsh project also provides benefits to Iowa's residents. The wildlife area is a popular hunting destination and the project will improve habitat for fall migrating waterfowl and upland species such as deer and pheasants.

The project will have tremendous water quality benefits for the upper Raccoon River watershed. Ducks Unlimited engineers designed the wetlands to collect runoff from surrounding private agricultural lands. Natural wetland processes will filter excess nutrients, improving water quality for downstream users, including the city of Des Moines.

Total project cost is $330,000, with funding by Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, Wells Fargo, Ducks Unlimited, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.