Ducks Unlimited and several partners are collaborating with the State University of New York-College of Environmental Science and Forestry to research the ecology of American black ducks and mallards that winter in the state's Finger Lakes region.

The Black Duck Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation are working with SUNY-ESF graduate students to determine if there are differences in habitat use and migration between mallards and black ducks during winter and spring.

That information could allow scientists, conservationists and landowners to construct management plans to sustain wintering and breeding populations of black ducks in New York.

See a photo gallery from the field

Mallards and black ducks are captured on Cayuga and Owasco Lakes. Hens of each species are equipped with satellite transmitters, which take GPS locations of the birds several times a day and send the information daily to computers via cell towers.

Data collected from tracking units will inform researchers about how these ducks are using habitats. The tracking units will also show when birds leave their wintering grounds and spring staging areas and the routes they take for spring migration. The locations and movements collected will show if mallards and black ducks are using habitats or migrating differently.

If species differ in their habitat use in winter and spring, management plans can be developed that provide habitat types on the landscapes more favorable to black ducks and allow them to continue to co-exist with mallards.

The intent is to ensure black ducks continue to winter in abundance for viewing and hunting by waterfowl enthusiasts of the Empire State.