Ruddy duck carcass covered in oil.
Ruddy Duck Covered in Oil. Credit: USFWS
Aerial View of Chalk Point Oil Spill.  
Chalk Point Spill. Credit: NOAA  
Aerial View of Pothole Wetlands  
Prairie Pothole Wetlands. Credit: USFWS  
Restored wetland  
Restored Wetland. Credit: USFWS  

Nesting Habitat Restored For Ruddy Ducks Lost to Oil Spill in 2000

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has successfully completed restoration of 1,850 acres ruddy duck habitat in south-central North Dakota and north-central South Dakota to compensate for injuries from an oil spill that happened in Maryland.  Private landowners restored cropland by planting perennial grass to increase nesting habitat for ruddy ducks. Conservation agreements were placed on these properties to protect the grasslands.   

In April 2000, a pipeline ruptured, spilling more than 140,000 gallons of oil into Maryland’s Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The spill injured or destroyed wetlands, beaches, and wildlife, including resident birds and migratory waterfowl.

“The spill was especially devastating to ruddy ducks,” said Marvin Moriarty, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast. “More than 550 ruddy ducks were lost to the spill, including those killed outright and the young they would have produced.”

To compensate for lost ducks, the natural resources trustee agencies, including the Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the State of Maryland, calculated that 1,850 acres of nesting habitat needed to be restored.  This summer that goal was reached through the efforts of the several Service programs, including the  Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program in the Northeast Region, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Habitat and Population Evaluation Team in the Mountain-Prairie Region.

Ruddy ducks are migratory. They breed in the prairie pothole wetlands of the Midwest, including portions of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and southern Canada. Prairie potholes are grassy, water-holding depressions of glacial origin. These potholes provide the most productive wetland habitat for waterfowl in North America.  By creating more nesting habitat in the prairie potholes, there will be more ruddy ducks wintering in the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay.

Fact Sheet (750KB pdf)

More Information on the Restoration Program.

Last updated: February 13, 2013