Archiving California’s historical duck nesting data

Open-File Report 2015-1131
Prepared in cooperation with the California Waterfowl Association, University of California-Davis, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in partnership with the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) and other organizations, have compiled large datasets on the nesting ecology and management of dabbling ducks and associated upland nesting birds (Northern Harriers [Circus cyaneus], Short-eared Owls [Asio flammeus], Ring-necked Pheasants [Phasianus colchicus], and American Bitterns [Botaurus lentiginosus]) throughout California on Federal Refuges, State Wildlife Areas, and private lands, some participating in State and Federal habitat programs. These datasets encompass several long-term monitoring programs at multiple sites throughout California, and include data from more than 26,000 nests and span nearly 30 years.

These historical datasets represent some of the longest term datasets on nesting ducks in North America, if not the world. They are extremely valuable for ongoing waterfowl management and habitat conservation efforts in California, as well as throughout the world. However, without organization and electronic access, these data are an untapped resource and are not being used to the full extent possible. Prior to this project, these datasets were scattered among various agencies and organizations, and original paper nest cards were being stored in cardboard boxes in attics and storage containers that were not suitable for long-term archival storage. In addition, most of these data had not been entered into a computerized database and thus were at high risk for permanent data loss.

To protect this irreplaceable dataset, we submitted a series of proposals to obtain funds to complete this data archival project over the past 5 years. The Central Valley Joint Venture, USGS Data Rescue Program, and USGS Ecosystems Mission Area funded this data archival project. In addition, we leveraged other USGS projects on nesting shorebirds, songbirds, and seabirds to use further resources to more fully develop the nest database structure for use on nesting waterfowl. Specifically, this large dataset on ducks was archived by USGS, but the dataset is owned and managed by a consortium of organizations. Therefore, any access and use of this data must occur through the principal investigators, who contributed data and resources to this archival project, as detailed in section, “Data Availability.”

With the conclusion of this project, most duck nest data have been entered, but all nest-captured hen data and other breeding waterfowl data that were outside the scope of this project have still not been entered and electronically archived. Maintaining an up-to-date archive will require additional resources to archive and enter the new duck nest data each year in an iterative process. Further, data proofing should be conducted whenever possible, and also should be considered an iterative process as there was sometimes missing data that could not be filled in without more direct knowledge of specific projects. Despite these disclaimers, this duck data archive represents a massive and useful dataset to inform future research and management questions.

Suggested Citation

Ackerman, J.T., Herzog, M.P., Brady, C., Eadie, J.M., and Yarris, G.S., 2015, Archiving California’s historical duck nesting data: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1131, 26 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Objectives
  • Archival Process
  • Data Backup
  • Data Availability
  • Future Directions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A. Archival Metadata, Including File Names, Location of Data, Site Names, and Years
  • Appendix B. Summary of All Duck Nest Data Collected by Study Region, Field, and Year, California, 1985–2014
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Archiving California’s historical duck nesting data
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2015-1131
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151131
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description vi, 26 p.; Appendix
Country United States
State California
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details