Nest tubes for Ducks: A success story in Ireland’s conservation efforts

February 16, 2024
Posted in Birds
February 16, 2024 FACE

As you travel the countryside of Ireland it is not unusual to see cylinder like tubes standing like sentinels along watercourses between rushes and reeds. These are duck tubes. Originally a Dutch idea, It was Delta waterfowl in the US that adapted the model and came up with an effective conservation tool which is now a key way of protecting ducks from predation. Duck tubes are an artificial nest platform that give breeding Mallard an advantage. The tube is simply a wire roll stuffed with hay, three feet above open water and mounted on a cradle and stout pole. Predation is a huge issue in Ireland. The main predators are invasive North American mink, rat and fox along with avian predators such as hooded crow and magpie. While hunters aim to create a predator vacuum during the breeding season, the sheer numbers of generalist predators is quite often a problem.

Duck tubes, when installed and used, have a hatching success rate of anything between 60% to 80% once the ducks are used to them, which can take up to 1 year. This is a fantastic number and great return on effort. When combined with an effective targeted predator control program, it will have the potential to massively improve the duck numbers in a given area.

Lorrha/Rathcabbin Game & Conservation Club is an example of one of the clubs that have adopted a strong duck tube regime, putting over 30 nesting tubes around their section of Lough Derg. Lough Derg, is a freshwater lake in the Shannon River Basin, Ireland.

It is the third-biggest on the island of Ireland (after Lough Neagh and Lough Corrib). Other clubs involved with nest tubes are Woodford in Galway, they were able to film some hen mallard using the tubes. Clubs affiliated to Wexford Regional Game Council in the South East of the Country started to run workshops and manufactured and erected over 50 nest tubes along stretches of the River Slaney, Ladies Island and Bannow Bay to name but a few again the return on investment in time and effort not to mention money is seen year on year. Duck nesting tubes really is a fantastic success story and we would encourage everyone to give it a go.

Project location: Ireland
Types of actions carried out: Management of habitats and wildlife
Habitat types concerned: Wetlands
Protection status of the areas concerned: National protected area, Hunting reserve, Ramsar
Species concerned: Huntable species, Birds, Generalist predators, Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Year the project was started: 2021 ongoing
Main partners involved: NARGC and affiliated clubs and Regional Game Councils

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