Date of this Version
Andersson K, Davis CA, Harris G, Haukos DA. 2018. Nonbreeding duck use at Central Flyway National Wildlife Refuges. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 9(1):45–64; e1944-687X. doi:10.3996/042017-JFWM-033
Within the U.S. portion of the Central Flyway, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages waterfowl on numerous individual units (i.e., Refuges) within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Presently, the extent of waterfowl use that Refuges receive and the contribution of Refuges to waterfowl populations (i.e., the proportion of the Central Flyway population registered at each Refuge) remain unassessed. Such an evaluation would help determine to what extent Refuges support waterfowl relative to stated targets, aid in identifying species requiring management attention, inform management targets, and improve fiscal efficiencies. Using historic monitoring data (1954–2008), we performed this assessment for 23 Refuges in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska during migration and wintering months (October–March). We examined six dabbling ducks and two diving ducks, plus all dabbling ducks and all diving ducks across two periods (longterm [all data] and short-term [last 10 October–March periods]). Individual Refuge use was represented by the sum of monthly duck count averages for October–March. We used two indices of Refuge contribution: peak contribution and January contribution. Peak contribution was the highest monthly count average for each October–March period divided by the indexed population total for the Central Flyway in the corresponding year; January contribution used the January count average divided by the corresponding population index. Generally, Refuges in Kansas, Nebraska, and New Mexico recorded most use and contribution for mallards Anas platyrhynchos. Refuges along the Texas Gulf Coast recorded most use and contribution for other dabbling ducks, with Laguna Atascosa and Aransas (including Matagorda Island) recording most use for diving ducks. The long-term total January contribution of the assessed Refuges to ducks wintering in the Central Flyway was greatest for green-winged teal Anas crecca with 35%; 12–15% for American wigeon Mareca americana, gadwall Mareca strepera, and northern pintail Anas acuta; and 7–8% for mallard and mottled duck Anas fulvigula. Results indicated that the reliance on the National Wildlife Refuge System decreased for these ducks, with evidence suggesting that, for several species, the assessed Refuges may be operating at carrying capacity. Future analyses could be more detailed and informative were Refuges to implement a single consistent surveymethodology that incorporated estimations of detection bias in the survey process, while concomitantly recording habitat metrics on and neighboring each Refuge.