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West Palm Beach, Florida – Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) captured and radio-marked forty-seven Florida mottled duck females earlier this month. This marks the beginning of a three-year project funded in part by Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

“Ducks Unlimited is proud to support this research project,” Craig LeSchack, Director of Conservation Programs for DU, said. “This research will identify certain habitat needs of mottled ducks and, therefore, allow us to better shape our conservation programs for this important species.”

The Florida mottled duck is a unique subspecies of the mottled duck found only in peninsular Florida. The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee supports a large number of mottled ducks and is considered an important habitat area for this species. Researchers with the Waterfowl Management Program of the FWC are collecting information on the habitat use, movements and survival of female mottled ducks within the EAA as part of the ongoing comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Florida mottled duck.
Researcher releases Mottled Duck after radio-marking.

Ronald Bielefeld, FWC waterfowl biologist, is leading the study. “The information we’re collecting will allow people involved with land and wildlife conservation in this area to better predict the effects of their activities on the mottled duck, and to focus their conservation efforts where they will be most effective,” Bielefeld said.

The hydrology and vegetative structure of the EAA was dramatically altered by agriculture. Currently, substantial and lasting changes are being made to the wetland and associated upland habitats in the EAA as the result of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project. How mottled ducks use the habitats of the EAA over their annual cycle, and how they will adapt to relatively rapid and large-scale changes over the longer term is not well understood. By radio-marking and following approximately 80 female mottled ducks each year, the researchers hope to answer some of these questions.

“We are now tracking the birds we marked earlier this month,” Bielefeld said. “Soon we will be trapping birds in suburban areas of West Palm Beach east of EAA. All of them will be tracked throughout their annual cycle to monitor habitat use and survival.”
Researchers will track the radio-marked birds throughout their annual life cycle.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – nature’s most productive ecosystem – and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.