By Paul Wait, Delta Waterfowl Editor
Melee in the Marsh Results - The Mallards Won
Back in March, Team USA took on Team Canada in a battle to see who could install 25 hen house nesting structures the fastest at wetlands near Delta's field research station in Minnedosa, Manitoba.
We called the mud-slinging, pole-driving, hole-drilling event the "Melee in the Marsh." As we documented on Facebook, Twitter and in the Summer Issue of this magazine, a much more brawny Team USA bulled its way past the more life-experienced Canadians to claim victory.
More importantly, however, is the final score provided by the spring residents of the houses put in that day. Of the 52 hen houses installed — Team Communications punched in two more after the race — 29 were used by mallards.
Delta Waterfowl staff biologist Matt Chouinard said a first-year usage rate above 50 percent is outstanding. Typically, usage rates improve in subsequent years after more ducks have successfully bred in an area.
Delta maintains more than 2,000 hen houses in Manitoba, most of them in areas that experience extremely high nest predation rates because of limited grass cover for puddle ducks such as mallards, pintails, gadwalls and blue-winged teal. Hen houses allow hens to nest over water, usually out of reach of raccoons, skunks, opossums and foxes.
Plans are in the works for another hen house Melee, with a goal of adding 400 hen houses in Manitoba this winter.