South Carolina Mottled Duck Research Project - Background Info

Study background

Ducks Unlimited and its partners initiated research in August 2010 to investigate the habitat use, movements, breeding season parameters and survival of female mottled ducks in coastal South Carolina. Female mottled ducks will be captured and radio marked over a three-year period to investigate the research objectives. Birds for the project are caught in August at night, using an airboat and spotlights to find the birds while they are roosting. August is typically when female mottled ducks undergo their annual molt, rendering them flightless. Once captured, all birds receive a federal band, and suitable hens are retained for radio instrumentation. Instrumented females will be tracked using telemetry techniques both on the ground and from fixed-wing aircraft. Our goal is to instrument 80 female mottled ducks per year during the three-year study.

The project location will include areas in South Carolina's Lowcountry, primarily within the 350,000-acre ACE Basin near Green Pond. The study area includes Charleston, Colleton and Beaufort counties.

Mottled ducks (Anas fulvigula) were introduced into South Carolina from 1976 to 1981 to increase hunting opportunities along the coast. Approximately 1,200 mottled ducks from Texas and Louisiana were released at four sites along the coast, and the population has now expanded to include other areas. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources estimates the current population to be near 20,000 birds. However, little is known about the ecology and habitat requirements of the mottled duck in South Carolina, particularly its nesting and brood-rearing needs.

The proposed research will increase our understanding of the ecology of the mottled duck and will provide information that waterfowl managers need to develop best management practices for the mottled duck in South Carolina. Graduate student researchers from Mississippi State University will conduct the research and summarize results. The results will be published as a graduate student thesis and submitted for peer-reviewed publication in scientific journals. Results will also be communicated to local landowners and managers through workshops and printed materials, as well as through various DU communications.

DU has committed $122,500 over the next three years for the project. Our partners for this important research include the Nemours Plantation Wildlife Foundation, South Carolina DNR and Mississippi State University.