Published March 18, 2012, 11:18 PM

Duck 'hen houses' get spring cleaning as part of wildlife groups' project

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Delta Waterfowl are in the sixth year of a 10-year partnership. Hen Houses, sometimes referred to as mallard factories, are artificial nesting structures designed to provide mallards with a safe place to nest. “

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

PETERSBURG, N.D. — Mike Graue and Tom Rohlck spent the better part of last week traveling via all-terrain vehicle through or over sometimes ice-covered sloughs along U.S. Highway 2.

They were checking what are known as hen houses, or elevated mallard duck nesting platforms that sit three to four feet above the surface, adding more flax straw to the tubes.

Graue is a private lands biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while Rohlck is a technician with Ducks Unlimited.

The spring maintenance is part of the Highway 2 Hen House Super Site Project, a partnership between USFWS and Delta Waterfowl, according to Roger Hollevoet, project leader for USFWS’ Devils Lake Wetland Management District. It includes 100 hen houses.

The two groups are in the sixth year of a 10-year partnership.

Hen Houses, sometimes referred to as mallard factories, are artificial nesting structures designed to provide mallards with a safe place to nest.

“They’re primarily used by mallards,” Hollevoet said. “Predation can be very high in this area.”

Predators, such as raccoons, skunks and foxes abound in the region, according to Delta Waterfowl, which has also run programs to curb their numbers.

Last year, the Highway 2 project had a 40 percent occupancy rate, and an 82 percent nesting success rate, Hollevoet said.

Nationally, hen house nesting structures experience average nest success of about 80 percent and about 80 percent occupancy rates, according to Delta Waterfowl.

Tags: