Assessing the Effectiveness of a Species-Specific Spinning-Wing Decoy on Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)

Independent Research Project, Clark Nissley (BS, '13)

The study I am conducting will tackle some of the questions put forth by both hunters and researchers in the field of waterfowl ecology. That is, how do wood ducks respond to an electronic spinning-wing decoy painted to resemble the same species? In past studies on spinning-wing decoys extensive research was completed using a mallard spinning-wing decoy, and these studies included effectiveness percentages for a number of duck species including ducks. Recently, the most popular electronic decoy producer in the waterfowl industry (MOJO) has created a spinning-wing decoy exclusively for wood ducks. This product is the “MOJO Screaming Woody” decoy and is meant to act as any other electronic spinning-wing decoy would act, imitating a duck just before it lands on the ground or water. However, in this study, I will find out exactly how effective a same species decoy is for the wood duck in a water environment. The most effective way in which to conduct a study of this nature is to establish a study site that is void in terms of human presence and hunting pressure. Essentially, the study will determine if wood ducks prefer a decoy spread that includes an electronic spinning-wing decoy.

  The Montandon marsh provides the ideal location for such a study, and thus I chose a portion of flooded timber at the marsh to conduct the study. Each day of observation includes a block of time composed of about three to four hours. This observational period is either in the early morning hours or the late evening hours. Access to the marsh was given by the head of the mining project, and thus a vehicle can be driven closer to the study site. From there I carry decoys to one of the two sections of Montandon Study Siteflooded timber that are optimal for decoy set-ups. Each of the two flooded timber sections contains a few different possible decoy set-up positions, and thus the spreads will be rotated around through these sites to eliminate any location bias. The decoy spread containing the spinning-wing decoy is identical in appearance to the normal decoy spread, with the addition of the electronic decoy. For example, if decoy set-up number one includes a hen at the front of the spread, then two drakes, and a drake and hen at the tail end, so will the other decoy spread. Each day the arrangement of decoys is noted so that variability between days can be introduced over the study period. The two spreads are set-up ~50 yards apart (or on two adjacent ponds) and each contains six wood duck decoys (4 drakes and 2 hens). The wind direction plays a large role in the direction of the decoy spreads. The general shape of the spreads is a U shape with the open end of the U facing the downwind direction. This is done to assure that the wood ducks have a place to land in the spread, while still allowing them to land into the wind as most waterfowl prefers. Each observation period the two spreads are swapped to once again eliminate any location bias. I sit at the decoy location that is currently not being used and watch for any kind of activity, and ideally I am not visible to any in-flight ducks or those that land. Thirty minutes after sunset, or two and a half hours after sunrise, I note any observations and remove the decoys.

I will use these data to run statistical models that will examine the significance of the data gathered. This data can then potentially be used to guide game regulations and set bag limits for wood ducks in order to manage their population.

Study Pond

Works Cited

Ackerman, J.T, J. M. Eadie, M. L. Szymanski, J. H. Caswell, M. P Vrtiska, A. H. Raedeke, J. M. Checkett, A. D. Afton, T. G. Moore, F. D. Caswell, D. D. Humburg and J. Yee. 2006. Effectiveness of spinning-wing decoys varies among dabbling duck species and locations. Journal of Wildlife Management 70: 799-804.

Ackerman, J. T., J. M. Eadie, & T. G. Moore. 2006. Does life history predict risk-taking behavior of wintering dabbling ducks? Condor, 108: 530-546.

Balkcom, G. D., P. R. Garrettson, & P. I. Padding. 2010. Predicting wood duck harvest rates in eastern north america. Journal of Wildlife Management, 74: 1575-1579.

Caswell, J., & F. Caswell. 2004. Vulnerability of mallards to bunting with a spinning-wing decoy in manitoba. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32: 1297-1304.

Denton, J. C., C. L. Roy, G. J. Soulliere, & B. A. Potter. 2012. Current and projected abundance of potential nest sites for cavity-nesting ducks in hardwoods of the north central United States. Journal of Wildlife Management, 76: 422-432.

Ducks Unlimited. 2012. Wood ducks. Retrieved September/17, 2012.

Fergus, C.2012. Wood duck.PA Game Commission, Harrisburg, PA.

Hochman, R., W. Abrahamson, & J. Clark. 1996. Montandon marsh: A vegetation description of a potentially endangered wetland. Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, 70:22.

Miller, C. A. 2012. Spinning-wing decoy use and reported duck harvest in illinois: Implications for adaptive harvest management. Journal of Wildlife Management, 76: 583-587. Penssylvania Land Trust Association. 2012. Conserving Montandon marsh. Retrieved 18/September, 2012.

Szymanski, M., & A. Afton. 2005. Effects of spinning-wing decoys on flock behavior and hunting vulnerability of mallards in minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 33: 993-1001. Waterfowl population status, 2012.2012. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, MD.