Wood duck (Aix sponsa) populations have been increasing in the Central Flyway, but little is known about wood duck brood rearing in prairie ecosystems. We compared movements and habitat use of radiomarked female wood ducks with broods in South Dakota on 2 rivers with contrasting prairie landscapes. The perennial Big Sioux River had a broad floodplain and riparian forest, whereas the intermittent Maple River had emergent vegetation along the river channel. Movements between nest sites and brood-rearing areas were longer on the Maple River than on the Big Sioux River (P = 0.02) and were among the longest reported for wood duck broods. Movements on the Big Sioux River were longer in 1992 (P = 0.01), when the floodplain was dry, than in 1993 or 1994. Before flooding occurred on the Big Sioux River, broods used semipermanent wetlands and tributaries outside the floodplain; thereafter, females selected forested wetlands along the river. Broods on the Maple River used emergent vegetation along the river channel throughout the study. Because median length of travel to brood-rearing areas was 2-3 km we recommend maintenance of brood-rearing habitat every 3-5 km along prairie rivers. Wildlife managers should encourage landowners to retain riparian vegetation along perennial rivers and emergent vegetation along intermittent streams to provide brood-rearing habitat during wet and dry cycles.
Additional publication details
Wood duck brood movements and habitat use on prairie rivers in South Dakota