The mission of the Flyway Foundation is to increase the population of migratory waterfowl through sound management for the improvement of waterfowling.
In an effort to increase migratory waterfowl in South Carolina, the Flyway Foundation investigated potential limiting factors. The following factors were identified: changes in the breeding population in the areas that produce ducks migrating to South Carolina, improvements in habitat in surrounding states, and warmer winters.
While we quickly recognized we can do nothing to impact the temperature of the winters or the desirable habitat in other states, we determined there may be a viable way of improving the population of the breeding waterfowl that produce ducks migrating to South Carolina. This was the genesis of the Flyway Foundation’s “Hen House” program. The Hen House program evolved into a cooperative partnership involving several state wildlife agencies and waterfowl conservation groups across the Great Lakes Region.
Our first step was to identify where ducks historically documented to migrate to South Carolina were originating. To accomplish this we utilized band return studies conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and satellite telemetry studies conducted by the SCDNR. We quickly honed in on a “focus area” and examined variables that could impact waterfowl numbers in those areas. “Nest success”, or more simply the ability of a duck to successfully hatch young quickly arose as a factor that could potentially be improved.
The Flyway Foundation contacted Delta Waterfowl, a leader in waterfowl research to discuss the issue. A potential solution was identified in the “Hen House”, a man made nesting structure that could be used to give the ducks a helping hand in surviving predators, which destroy nests.
We quickly formed partnerships with several conservation organizations and state wildlife agencies in the breeding grounds. They agreed to install, monitor, and maintain hen houses, which we would build and ship to them. The program started small but has evolved into one the largest programs of its kind in the country.
To date we have shipped hen houses to Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York , Michigan and Maryland. Nearly 3200 houses to date have been provided to these breeding grounds.
Preliminary results indicate the utilization of the hen houses have gone from approximately 10-20% to as high as 65%. Nesting success has been as high as 90% in some areas and is typically above 80%. This level of success is clear evidence that our efforts are having a tremendous impact. The primary species of waterfowl utilizing these houses are mallards, with some wood duck usage as well.
Our partnership with Delta Waterfowl provided us the services and knowledge of a masters level graduate student who has spent three years studying the program. An interview with him may be seen above. His thesis is expected later this year which will quantify the results of the hen houses he studied, which represent only a portion of those we have provided to the great lakes area breeding grounds so important to wintering waterfowl in SC.
How can you help?
- Sponsor the Foundation
- Donate a hen house
- Become a member
- Join a committee
- Volunteer to help build hen houses