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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kenneth F. Higgens


Considerable attention has been given to the quality of aerial surveys of spring breeding duck populations and water conditions in the prairie pothole region. In contrast, little research time has been done in relation to validating the quality of the July aerial brood surveys which do not have a ground-truth compliment similar to the spring breeding population survey. Four ground survey periods along 9 Air-Ground Comparison segments were used to evaluate the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Aerial Waterfowl Production and Habitat Survey (production survey) in eastern South Dakota. Survey 1 was conducted before and Survey 2 was conducted during the production survey, while Surveys 3 and 4 were conducted after the production survey. During this study, broods and Late Nesting Index (LNI) adults were counted from the ground and air. The LNI is composed of lone drakes in breeding plumage and duck pairs and is used to predict the relative number of broods that hatch after the production survey is concluded. We counted the greatest number of broods during ground survey 3 which was I month after the USFWS production survey. Survey 3 brood counts showed the best relationship to the total number of broods produced on the comparison segments. Based on our ground counts, the most broods along the study segments would have theoretically been present during late July through early August. July pond count data showed a better relationship to the number of broods that hatched after the production survey than did data from the Aerial-LNI or Ground-LNI. Our findings along with data from earlier studies indicate that enough discrepancy exists between the timing of current aerial brood surveys and the peak in brood occurrence to merit consideration of further evaluation of the USFWS brood survey protocols.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Waterfowl--Breeding--South Dakota
Waterfowl--South Dakota--Statistics


Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-81)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1996. Thomas R. Cooper. All rights reserved.