The Northern Pintail Survival Game
- Students will gain an understanding of waterfowl survivorship.
- Students will describe 3 events that affect a duck's survival.
Students draw from a deck of survival cards that determine the fate of a hen pintail and her brood. The ultimate goal is to reach the wintering grounds.
The following information provides additional details that will aid in the understanding of this activity. This is for the teacher's benefit, as well as the student's.
Background Information on Northern Pintail:
The northern pintail breeds primarily in the northern Great Plains. It is one of the earliest arrivals on the breeding grounds. Because they nest early, pintails need cover (dead grass/vegetation) from the previous year. A hen tends to nest in fairly dry areas, often a mile from water.
The nests are not well concealed. Once incubation begins, the male leaves. The hen incubates the eggs from 21-26 days alone. There can be anywhere from 6-10 eggs in a nest. They are cream in color.
The wintering grounds for the pintail include: primarily southern North America and Central America, N. Africa, Persian Gulf, India, S.E. Asia, S. China Taiwan, Hawaiian Islands, Panama and the West Indies.
survivorship: the chances or odds of survival.
migration: the movement of animals between north and south regions of the world during certain times of the year.
wintering grounds: warm regions of the world where migratory birds feed and rest.
duckling:a young duck that cannot fly yet.
fledging: a stage in a duck's life; the feathers necessary for flying are growing.
- North Dakota produces more ducks than the other lower 48 states.
- Many of the factors that determine pintail survival are the same for most species of ducks.
- As students play the game, they may conclude that the chances of survival are slim. As the environment changes and the interference of human beings increase, waterfowl survivorship decrease.
- Toy ducks (1 for each group) These toys can be purchased at discount stores. They may be advertised as bathtub toys or rubber duckies.
- Gameboard (1 for each group) See gameboard directions.
- Survival cards (3 different sets per group) See survival cards.
- 6-10 flat objects such as pennies, bingo chips, etc. These will represent the pintail ducklings.
- Wall map of North America
The directions on how to build the gameboard are left open-ended. This allows freedom for the individual teacher to design a gameboard that's appropriate for your grade level.
The gameboard, however, must include the following:
1) A starting point - the nest.
2) An ending point - the wintering grounds
3) Gameboard spaces - The survival cards described below suggest that there should be at least 23 spaces on the gameboard. Depending on how the cards are adapted, changed, substituted, or removed, the spaces may vary. This is up to the individual teacher.
With older students, it might be fun for them to design their own gameboard.
Feel free to add additional graphics on the gameboard to make it more appealing to students.
You will need 3 sets of cards for each group. You may use the same descriptions on the cards but to make things more interesting, you may want to arrange each set differently. This way each group of students will get different results when they play the game. This leads into a great discussion as groups share and compare their results in the playing the survival game.
Each set represents a different stage in the duck's life. The cards within each set describe a "fate" for the hen and her brood. In addition, the cards tell the players how many spaces to move the hen and her ducklings. Cards can be removed, used more than once, changed, or placed in different order. This allows different results for the students to experience.
Set 1: From egg to hatching
- Good nesting habitat; Do not move ahead.
- Poor nesting cover from previous year; Do not move ahead.
- Incubation begins; male pintail leaves.
- Raccoon finds the nest; nest is lost, all eggs destroyed.
- Hen attempts to nest again; 4 eggs in the nest.
- One duckling too weak to chip its way out; lose 1 egg.
- Skunk finds nest; nest is destroyed.
- Red fox finds nest; eats hen. Nest and all eggs destroyed.
- Drought - Few wetlands have water; Hen fails to nest.
- >Farmer cultivates field; destroys nest.
- 23 days later, the eggs hatch successfully.
Set 2: Hatching to fledging
- Walk from nest to water is safe. Move ahead 3 spaces.
- Small wetland-right amount of cattails for cover. Move ahead 1 space.
- Lots of rain-small, shallow wetlands make a good habitat. Move ahead 2 spaces.
- One duckling gets lost in tall grass. He follows the sound of the hen. Found! Move ahead 2 spaces.
- Insecticide from farmland runs into wetland. Kills food supply. Lose 2 ducklings. Do not move ahead.
- Ducklings become stronger. Move ahead 2.
- In move to another wetland, hawk eats 1 duckling. Move ahead 1 space.
- Ducklings continue to grow. Move ahead 2 spaces.
- Abundant food supply. The Duck Stops Here!
- Drought! All area wetlands dry up. All ducklings die.
Set 3: Fledging to Migration
- Ducklings begin to fly. Move ahead 3 spaces.
- Telephone line is seen too late. 1 duckling dies.
- Good weather for flying. Move ahead 3 spaces.
- Lead poisoning from old shot shells or fishing sinkers. Lose 1 duck.
- J. Clark Salyer NWR-good food supply and resting area. Move ahead 1 space.
- Loud explosion! Get caught in banding net. Safe, but now banded. Do not move ahead.
- Early winter; flight feathers are not developed when pond freezes. Lose 2 ducks.
- Migration south continues. Move ahead 2 spaces.
- Hunting season begins. Lose 2 ducks.
- Survived!!! Reached wintering grounds.
Playing The Game
- Explain to students that today they are going to play a game of survival. This survival game involves a waterfowl species known as the northern pintail.
- Review the following vocabulary words: survivorship, migration, wintering grounds, mortality, fledging, and duckling. Review with students the characteristics of the northern pintail (see background information).
- Divide the class into groups of 4. Each group needs the following materials: 1 toy duck, 1 gameboard, 10 duckling game pieces, and the 3 sets of survival cards.
- Each group is going to play the role of a pintail hen. The hen is responsible for at least 10 eggs. The eggs are represented by the 10 pennies or bingo chips.
- Each set of cards represents a different stage in a duck's life. The cards describe various events that may take place throughout the course of a duck's life.
- Ask each group to place the toy duck on the gameboard where the nest picture is located. This will represent that the pintail hen has a nest located somewhere in the northern hemisphere. It could be Canada, Montana, or North Dakota.
- Place the three sets of cards face down in the middle of the group. Taking turns, each group member takes a card and follows the directions on the card.
Example: "Abundant food supply"
This means life is good in this area. The hen and her brood would be safe and want to stay where the food is plentiful. Therefore, the duck would not move to another space.
Example: "Ducklings begin to fly-Move ahead 3 spaces.
This means the ducklings are on their way. The duck and ducklings would move ahead 3 gameboard spaces.
Example: "Hunting season begins-Lose 2 ducks
In this case, two of the game pieces that represent the ducklings (pennies, bingo chips, etc.) would be removed. The hen and remaining ducklings do not move ahead.
- The game ends when the duck or ducks have reached the wintering grounds. All the cards need not be used and an exact number is not needed for the duck to reach the wintering grounds. If all the cards have been used and the duck is still alive, then she has safely reached the wintering grounds.
- If a group's hen and brood are destroyed early in the game, ask them to begin a new game.
After each group completes the game, ask students to share their results. Guide students in answering the following questions:
- How did their outcome compare with the others in the room? Compare the survivorship of the ducks.
- What was the largest number of ducklings to survive?
- What was the smallest number to survive?
- Describe 3 obstacles that played a role in the ducklings survival. Explain how these obstacles impact waterfowl in the real setting of a wetland.
- What could be done to increase waterfowl survivorship?