Listing of the mottled duck (Anas fulvigula maculosa) as a priority species in the Gulf Coast Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, coupled with recent declines of rice (Oryza sativa) acreage, led us to investigate the nesting ecology of this species on agricultural lands in southwest Louisiana. We examined nest-site selection at macro- and microhabitat levels, nest success, causes of nest failures, and habitat features influencing nest success. We found that female mottled ducks preferred to nest in permanent pastures with knolls (53% of nests) and idle fields (22% of nests). Vegetation height was greater at nests than at random points within the same macrohabitat patch. Successful nests were associated with greater numbers of plant species, located farther from water, and associated with higher vegetation density values than were unsuccessful nests. We determined that mammalian predators caused most nest failures (77% of 52 unsuccessful nests). Our results suggest that nest success of mottled ducks on agricultural lands in southwest Louisiana could be improved by 1) locating large permanent pastures and idle fields near rice fields and other available wetlands, 2) managing plant communities in these upland areas to favor dense stands of perennial bunch grasses, tall composites, dewberry (Rubus trivialis), and other native grasses and forbs, and 3) managing cattle-stocking rates and the duration and timing of grazing to promote tall, dense stands of these plant taxa during the nesting season (March-June).
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Nest-site selection and success of mottled ducks on agricultural lands in southwest Louisiana