Habitat Influences on Pintail Duckling Survival: Testing Management Actions

Final Project Report: Habitat Influences on Pintail Duckling Survival: Testing Management Actions, 2012-2013

Goals and Objectives

The decline and slow recovery of the Northern Pintail, specifically in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is of concern to
North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) partners across North America.  With the pintail’s propensity for
nesting in cropland-dominated lands and the conversion of wildlife-productive native grasslands to cropland over the period
of decline, the loss of safe nesting habitat is the primary hypothesis for the decline. Specifically, nests in spring-seeded
cropland have a high probability of being destroyed during spring seeding operations. The mitigation of these threats
through the establishment of fall-seeded crops like winter wheat across broad regions of the prairie breeding area could
have a positive effect on pintail recruitment and on continental population recovery.

This study is a further evaluation of the NAWMP-PHJV conservation initiative promoting winter cereals as a cropping
practice that has benefits to wildlife (the Northern Pintail and other cropland-nesting birds), as well as crop producers and
the rural economy as winter wheat typically out-yields spring-seeded varieties in prairie Canada.

The goal of this project is:

1) Evaluate of the effect of PHJV’s conservation initiative and promote of winter wheat on pintail brood and duckling survival.

Activities

April 2012-August 2012: Radio marking fifty nesting female pintail hens, near hatch, in grassland and cropland-dominated
landscapes focusing on winter wheat. Monitor brood and duckling survival weekly until 30 days of age.

April 2012-August 2012:  Radio marking fifty nesting female pintail hens, near hatch, in grassland and cropland-dominated
landscapes focusing on winter wheat. Monitor brood and duckling survival weekly until 30 days of age.

September 2012-April 2013: Analysis and write up.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

The use of winter cereals has been promoted by the PHJV as a sustainable land use practice for producers as well as identifying
the significant impact it has on populations of upland nesting waterfowl, specifically northern pintails. Recently, long-billed curlews
also were documented as successfully nesting in winter wheat in Alberta.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

Quantifying the recruitment benefits to pintail populations will allow the pintail conservation and management community and the
agricultural industry, to have a better understanding of the conservation implications of large scale winter cereal adoption across the
prairies. With this information, management strategies and objectives can be improved to benefit wildlife enthusiasts and
conservationists, hunters and landowners.

Project Location

This project is located on Saskatchewan Rural Municipalities of 007, 008, 037, and 038. The landscape is Mixed and Moist Mixed
Grasslands of the Prairie Pothole Region. The project will occur across a steep gradient of landscape types from large tracts of unbroken
native prairie to agriculturally intensive crop production allowing a characterization of pintail survival in the modern prairie landscape.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact David Johns, MSc Candidate, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK.