Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
Midwest Region

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Address:
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
18965 County Hwy 82 S
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Phone: 218-739-2291

Biological Field Activities

 In order to keep up-to-date data available to the participating "clients", the Habitat and Population Evaluation Team must conduct biological field activities. These activities are administered in the form of surveys and monitoring of target wildlife species. Following are five of these activities:

4 Square Mile Survey

 

wetland survey formThe annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Production Estimates Survey was launched in 1987 as a means of assessing contributions of National Wildlife Refuge System lands in the Prairie Pothole Region to continental waterfowl populations. Originally developed by scientists at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, the stratified random survey is conducted by USFWS personnel on 186 4-square mile sample plots in Minnesota, and by Department of Natural Resources employees on 60 plots in Iowa. Data are collected using ground counts in Minnesota and a helicopter in Iowa. In each 4-square mile plot, waterfowl and other wetland birds are counted on selected wetlands. Color infrared aerial photos of these plots are acquired annually to assess habitat condition.

surveying a wetlandAnnual estimates of waterfowl abundance and production are generated from 4-square mile survey data, including statewide and wetland management district estimates of mallard, blue-winged teal, and total pairs; and of mallard, blue-winged teal, and total recruits. Recruitment estimates are based on wetland conditions at the time of the survey and upland habitat composition of the sample plots. Pair density and recruitment estimates also are provided by ownership stratum, including federal, easement, and private lands.

Each year the HAPET office distributes an annual report summarizing the results of the survey.

Download Annual report (676 KB pdf format)

Nest Searching

From 1999 through 2001 the US Fish and Wildlife Service HAPET office and the Minnesota Waterfowl Association have monitored duck nesting success in west central Minnesota. Available habitats to nesting ducks are constantly changing. Farm programs and management practices also continue to change over time. Predator populations fluctuate over time. Those fluctuations can have a direct effect on duck nesting success and production. Duck nesting success is affected by all of these changes. To accurately model duck populations and duck production, the affect of these changes in the landscape needs to be known. To evaluate the effects of these changes on nesting ducks, it is necessary to monitor their effects over time. This study was an attempt to monitor current nesting success rates and to evaluate a few variables in the landscape that may have some impact on duck nest success in western Minnesota. Approximately 12,000 acres were searched over the 3 year period and nearly 1000 duck nests were located.

map of nest dragging study area

nest dragging crewrecording nest datajeep with chain, dragging grass for nests

Fact Sheet

Report

For additional information on predator surveys contact:

Dan Hertel
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota  56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: dan_hertel@fws.gov

 

Shorebird Monitoring

Prairie pothole wetlands are home to myriad migrating shorebird species. Potholes provide critical stopover habitat for shorebirds as they migrate to their nesting grounds in the arctic and for the return trip in fall. Little information is available on shorebird populations, but the best available data indicates that most species are in decline. To get a better handle on population trends and habitat relationships, monitoring protocols are being developed under the Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring (PRISM). Although northern breeding grounds are difficult to access, annual surveys along migration routes may be used to provide population trend data. The HAPET has provided assistance to US Geological Survey Scientists in developing these protocols. However, counting migrating shorebirds in the PPR presents several challenges. Due to the ephemeral nature of water on the prairies, shorebirds have adopted a migration pattern that adapts to the constantly changing water conditions. While some areas are virtually guaranteed to have shorebirds during much of the migration, many more sites in the PPR will hold birds only in certain years and at certain times when conditions are right. Even when everything appears perfect, shorebirds may still bypass an area, and congregate on a recently tilled crop field. Determining the habitats and landscapes that have a high likelihood of holding birds can help focus survey efforts in areas that will provide the most information, and will help identify shorebird focus areas for managers.

lesser yellow legs American avocet

 

Initial results from the first two years of spring surveys can be found in the HAPET Strategic Management Tools and Mapping Products: Landscape for Shorebird During Management web page.

An overview of the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan is available at http://shorebirdplan.fws.gov/USShorebird/overview.htm

 

For additional information on the marsh and shorebird surveys contact:

Diane Granfors, PhD
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota  56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: diane_granfors@fws.gov

Predator Population Monitoring

raccoon, a predator

In order to better manage our public properties for duck production and to maximize the benefits from our acquisition dollars more information is needed on the predator component in the landscape. Predators have a direct influence on duck nesting success. Simple knowledge of where certain predator species occur annually within managed landscapes may allow management to target practices that are beneficial to nesting ducks. Increased knowledge of predator interactions with the components of the landscapes in which they survive may allow management to adopt strategies that have a positive influence on duck production in the Prairie Pothole Region.

 

Presently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) is working to initiate a pilot project involving a predator track survey in conjunction with U.S. Geological Survey – Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. The purpose of this project is to develop a cost effective, efficient technique to determine predator species distribution and their relative abundance across the landscape. The scent-post survey presently conducted, certainly has value, however it is an index to population abundance and falls short in providing spatially explicit information. Ideally, this track survey will provide us with locations where certain predator species have high and low abundances that will allow us to alter our management strategies to take advantage of that knowledge.

a nest visited by predatorsred fox, another predator

Predation Management Review (February 2, 2005)

For additional information on predator surveys contact:

Dan Hertel
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota  56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: dan_hertel@fws.gov

Duck Banding

It is uncertain when the first band was attached to a bird’s leg. In the early 1800s, John James Audubon attached a thread to the leg of an eastern phoebe and was pleased to see the bird return to the Pennsylvania banding site the following year. More recently, banding has provided information on seasonal movements, migration corridors, and the linkage between the breeding and wintering grounds of many species. For waterfowl, banding provides important information for management by enabling USFWS population biologists to estimate annual survival rates of duck and goose species. These estimates inform biologists about the impacts of hunting and other forms of mortality on populations and therefore influences hunting regulations. Today, most duck banding is conducted in Canada and in the US Prairie Pothole Region. USFWS field stations are often encourage to band post-breeding or wintering waterfowl in other parts of the country to address specific information needs.
Each year, the HAPET office bands between 500-1,000 ducks of all species, chiefly during the month of August. One important aspect of the HAPET banding program is the large number of wood ducks we band each year. Although their population trend appears to be positive, wood ducks are an important game species for which relatively little population data is available.
HAPET office staff use swim-in traps baited with corn to capture ducks. Each duck is affixed with a uniquely numbered aluminum leg band after its species, sex, and age are recorded. For additional information on bird banding visit the National Biological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory web site at www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl

Banding collage

 

 

Duck Band Recovery Location Maps

For more information concerning the HAPET banding operation contact:

Tony Rondeau
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota   56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: tony_rondeau@fws.gov

 

Tree Removal and Grassland Birds

Western MeadowlarkWaterfowl Production Areas (WPA's) in the prairie pothole region of Minnesota frequently have a significant woody component that is incompatible with the purposes of conserving habitat for grassland birds. Woody vegetation not only uses up space that could otherwise be grass cover, but many grassland bird species need grass in patches many times larger than their territory size or they will simply refuse to use the area for nesting, in addition, woody vegetation attracts avian and mammalian predators that may significantly reduce nesting success.

To improve habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been actively removing trees to:

  1. reduce the amount of acreage taken up by incompatible habitat

  2. to increase the effective field size of adjacent grasslands

  3. to reduce the amount of habitat attractive to avian and mammalian predators that may decrease nesting success for grassland birds.

 

When woody vegetation is removed, it is expected that the numbers of grassland nesting birds will increase. USFWS personnel in the Litchfield and Morris Wetland Management Districts have teamed with HAPET to monitor the response of grassland birds to tree removal. Six WPA's have been targeted for tree removal while six similar WPA's will be left as controls to measure natural annual variability in bird numbers. Birds will be counted before and after tree removal to measure their response to the increased habitat availability and larger open spaces.

For an overview and annotated bibliography on the effects of woody vegetation on grassland birds click here.

For additional information on tree removal and grassland birds contact:

Diane Granfors, PhD
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota  56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: diane_granfors@fws.gov

 

Marsh Bird Monitoring Surveys

monitoring marsh birdsamerican bitternSome of the most common wetland residents are seldom seen, but are frequently heard calling in early spring. Such is the basis of the secretive marsh bird survey that relies primarily on broadcasting taped calls of rails, soras, and bitterns then listening for their response. The survey protocol was designed for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges by U. S. Geological Survey Scientist Courtney Conway of the University of Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit .

With the rapid rate of habitat change and historic loss of wetlands, it has become increasingly obvious that we need to get a better handle on the population trends of these secretive birds. HAPET scientists are applying this survey protocol across northwestern Minnesota landscapes in an effort to establish base numbers for determining population trends, and also to determine the distribution, habitats, and landscapes selected by marsh bird species.

For additional information on marsh bird monitoring surveys contact:

virginia rail pairDiane Granfors, PhD
Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
US Fish and Wildlife Service
18965 County Hwy. 82 S
Fergus Falls, Minnesota  56537
phone: 218-739-2291
email: diane_granfors@fws.gov

 


 

Last updated: March 4, 2009