United States

Department of

Agriculture

Natural Resources

Conservation

Service

1351A Highway 146 Bypass

Liberty, Texas 77575

PH.  (409) 336-9145 Ext.3

FAX (409) 336-7224

 

Information Sheet for Wildlife Wetland

Habitat Management

June 2000

 

Wetlands are some of the most productive wildlife lands in the country.  Wetlands provide breeding grounds and habitat for thousands of ducks, geese, along with other water loving birds and wildlife. 

 

There are many kinds of wetland, and many ways to improve waterfowl habitat.  There are several practices that can be useful in managing any wetland.

 

Shallow water depths from 2 inches up to 18 inches are most desirable for dabbling ducks such as mallards, teal, pintail, gadwall, widgeon, shovelers, mottled ducks, and wood ducks.  These ducks so not usually dive, but merely tip over and feed on seeds, acorns, and roots on the ground under the water.  Diving ducks, such as canvasbacks, redheads, scaup, ringneck ducks, and mergansers, prefer deeper water.

 

Maintain shallow floods during the fall, winter, and into early spring.  Slowly drain (or allow the water to dry up) during late spring or early summer to allow emergent vegetation to grow.  Seeds produced by smartweed, barnyard grass, and many other “weeds” are relished by waterfowl.  If the area is being utilized by nesting wood ducks, allow some water to remain through August.

 

If good waterfowl food plants are not present, crops may be planted, such as domestic rice, red rice, Japanese millet or browntop millet.  Plant between June 15 and August 15 for best results.  When areas are to be used for waterfowl hunting check State and Federal laws pertaining to “baiting” before planting seeds.

 

Sometimes it is desirable to fence wetland areas to protect them from grazing.  This will allow for the growth of herbaceous cover, which will provide areas for nesting, resting, and concealed cover.

 

 

 

Managing River Bottom Hardwoods for Waterfowl

 

The keys to providing quality river bottom habitat for waterfowl include:

§         Properly manage desirable hardwood species that produce mast.  Harvest trees with waterfowl needs in mind.  Mark the trees to be cut according to a recommended method depending on the kinds and age of trees present.  Seek the advice of a qualified wildlife biologist and forester.

§         Control undesirable species.

§         Mange livestock grazing so as to allow for regeneration and production of desirable timber and herbaceous species.  Consider removing livestock one to two years before and after harvesting trees so as to allow for adequate regeneration of desirable species.

§         Manipulation of water during the fall, winter, and spring is sometimes an option.  If the area does not naturally flood at a frequency and duration that has been satisfactory for providing quality waterfowl habitat, then a “greentree” reservoir may be an alternative if proper age and species of hardwoods are present.

§         For “greentree” reservoirs, construct an earthen embankment with a water control structure to allow for seasonally flooding of hardwood bottoms.

§         Flood the reservoir with 6 to 18 inches over 80 percent of the area from October 15 to March 15.  Drain the reservoir from March 15 to October 15 to prevent damage to the trees, and allow regeneration of vegetation.  It is desirable to leave some water through August 1st for wood duck brood rearing areas.

§         Manage desirable trees such as willow oak, water oak, cherrybark oak, nuttall oak, bald cypress and tupelo gum.  If desirable trees are not present, plant the area to adapted desirable species.

§         If the entire flooded area has a dense tree canopy, small openings (from ½ acre up to several acres) should be made to improve accessibility for ducks.  These areas will also help to provide a variety of vegetation.  Mow, disk, or graze these areas during the summer as needed to improve plant species composition.

§         Consider fencing the reservoir to prevent over grazing or continuous use by livestock.

§         Install wood duck boxes with predator guards.

 

Many of the above practices may be applied in most riverbottom hardwood situations, even if a greentree reservoir is not constructed.  Consult with your Natural Resource Conservation Service representative prior to beginning these projects.  Several State and Federal laws govern activities in river bottoms.

 

 

Managing Upland Depressions for Waterfowl

 

These are areas that occur in “flatwoods” or native/improved pastures.

 

§         Construct embankments and/or water control structures to enhance or create a wetland and to allow for water level manipulation.  Hold a shallow flood during the fall, winter and spring.  Drain and allow natural vegetation to recover during the summer months.

§         Plant to duck food crops. “See item below on baiting”

§         To improve nesting habitat, plant the perimeter to water tolerant trees, shrubs, or tall grasses, such as switchgrass and buttonwillow.

§         Fence out livestock to prevent overgrazing.

§         Install wood duck boxes with predator guards.

§         Encourage establishment and production of tall vegetative species along the perimeter for cover.

 

 

Managing Cropland for Waterfowl

 

§         Install water control structures in the field to allow for water manipulation and/or erosion control.

§         In late August or September, close levees and catch rainwater and/or pump on water to a shallow depth of 12 inches or less.

§         If possible, progressively flood a portion of the field at 2-4 week intervals.

§         Leave flooded until the end of March, or as long as possible, until spring land preparation is necessary.

§         Some areas on the farm that will not be flooded could be planted to ryegrass r winter wheat in the fall for geese. “See item below on baiting” 

§         In years when the field is idle, if some areas within the field tend to hold water, delay disking these areas and leave a 100 foot perimeter not disked or disturbed until July 1 to allow for mottled duck nesting and brood rearing.  In addition to eating weed and grass seed, ducks and geese will eat red rice and can significantly reduce red rice infestations in ricefields.

 

 

Managing Coastal Marshlands for Waterfowl

 

§         If needed, and if feasible, install water control structures to manipulate water or to control salt water intrusion; and where necessary, construct small embankments to hold shallow water on natural marshes.  Consult your NRCS representative prior to beginning construction as several State and Federal laws may apply.

§         Plant some areas to winter wheat or ryegrass in the fall for geese, when summers are sufficiently dry to allow seedbed preparation. “See item below on baiting”

§         Poor waterfowl food plants such as giant cut grass, maidencane, or cattails can be plowed or disked out if the marsh dries up enough to hold equipment.  Many times they will return naturally on their own.

§         Cattle grazing can also be used to control unwanted plants such as cutgrass and maidencane.  Carefully monitor grazing to encourage the growth of quality waterfowl food plants.

§         Burning or mowing dense native vegetation in the fall can increase open water areas in those years when conditions permit.  Be sure to follow the Texas Air Control Board rules regarding burning.

 

 

Managing Farm Ponds for Waterfowl

 

§         Select areas with existing shallow flats or construct shallow areas around existing ponds.

§         Install a water control structure to allow for water manipulation.  Trap rainwater in the fall, winter, and early spring.  Allow water to evaporate or drain the shallow water during early spring.  The deeper water (more than 6’) can be left for recreation, fish production, or livestock water.

§         When it dries, the shallow area may need disking to encourage the growth of quality waterfowl plants.

§         Leave a minimum 50 foot wide strip of natural or planted tall grasses around the perimeter to provide nesting habitat for mottled ducks and brood rearing habitat for wood ducks.

§         Baiting:  If duck or goose hunting is planned on any area to be planted to a crop for wildlife, consult with State or Federal Wildlife Enforcement officials before planting.

§         Trees such as nuttall oak, willow oak, water oak, green ash, and bald cypress may be planted in some cases to improve wetland habitat.  Plant at a spacing to result in a stand of 200-500 trees per acre.

 

These recommendations are made to cover a variety of situations found in Texas.  Consult your local NRCS representative to get specific advice on your individual situation.

 

Seeding Table for Wetland Habitat

 

 

 

Plant

 

Optimum

Planting

Depth

(inches)

Drilled/Broadcast

(pounds per acre)

Rows

(pounds per acre)

Ryegrass*

9/1-11/15

1/4 - 1/2

12

12

Barley*

9/1-11/15

1 - 2

72

-

Oats*

9/1-12/1

1 - 2

64

-

Edbon Rye*

9/1-11/15

1 - 2

56

-

Wheat*

9/1-11/15

1 - 2

60

-

White Clover*

9/15-11/15

1/4 - 1/2

3

-

Browntop millet

4/15-8/1

1/4 - 1/2

20

10

Foxtail millet

4/15-8/1

1/4 - 1/2

20

10

Japanese millet

4/15-8/1

1/4 - 1/2

20

10

Pearl millet

4/15-8/1

1/4 - 1/2

20

10

Red rice

4/1-8/1

1/2 - 1

50

-

Domestic rice

4/1-8/1

1/2 - 1

50

-

Corn

3/15-5/15

1 - 1/2

20

10

Grain sorghum

3/15-8/1

1 - 2

20

12

Jointvetch

3/1-5/30

1/4 - 1/2

15

-

Sesbania

3/1-5/1

1/4 - 1/2

30

12

Chufa

4/1-6/1

1 - 2

-

30

Smartweed

3/15-6/15

2 - 3

-

8000 plants

Alamo switchgrass

3/1-5/31

1/4 - 1/2

2.0 (PLS)

0.8 (PLS)

 

(* Indicates plantings primarily used for geese.  PLS means Pure Live Seed)

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File:word/factsheetwethabmgt.doc