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Mallard Duck Research

Fish & Game is dedicating a significant amount of resources and staff time to mallard research. Here you'll be able to find out what we're doing in the field to both improve our knowledge of this valued game bird and ultimately benefit hunters.

You'll find a stack of information here which will be updated as milestones are met and new reports come to hand. If you want to be informed of new posts to this page, don't forget to 'like' Fish & Game on Facebook.

1. GPS telemetry productivity

A component of Fish & Game's wider mallard research programmae is GPS telemetry. This involves trapping mallard hens, then attaching GPS transmitters to them so they can be located and observed. 

We want to find out when the birds are nesting, how many have hatched and fledged. This should help identify key limiting factors to the growth of mallard and grey duck populations.

  • NEST CAM - the image below is the latest footage from our hidden cameras.

August 28: An Australasian harrier helps itself to an egg from one of our monitored nests.

  • LATEST UPDATE (April 14, 2014)

Our PhD student Jenn Sheppard is here, enrolled at Auckland and settling in well. It’s been all action since she arrived as we needed to finalise study designs and order equipment, plus jump through all the hoops regarding animal ethics. Meetings have been held with supervisors and avian surgeons at Auckland University in order to finalise our approach. Jenn has been able to acquire a lot of equipment from Ducks Unlimited Canada which will save us thousands, the amount of advice and information we are getting through external supervisors and researchers has also been priceless. On that topic, we are looking at flying one of our external supervisors, Dr. Courtney Amundson, over here for one month at the beginning of the field season to help with surgeries and impart her knowledge on the project. She is going to present on some of her work from the US to Fish & Game staff. Courtney and our other external supervisor, Dr. Todd Arnold, are considered international experts in the field of mallard breeding ecology so it is exciting to have researchers of this calibre visiting NZ. Courtney’s publications can be viewed here.

We are also looking for two volunteers and have advertised both within NZ and overseas. The six month posting will require long winter days in the field so we need someone that isn’t going to quit when the going gets a bit tough. We have budgeted to pay for the volunteer’s accommodation and food. The placing would ideally suit a recent graduate looking for work experience.

It is now a matter of contacting landowners and Fish and Game clubs to finalise study sites and get further assistance, especially with nest searches. If anyone has contacts for good pointer dogs based in the Hamilton or Southland area, please let the staff know. We are looking for hunters that are willing to take their dogs around farms/wetlands and find and mark out nest sites, preferably without flushing the hens. We would need to do some limited training to ensure protocols are followed and teach participant how to candle eggs (a method used to determine stage of incubation).

Other than that, we are constructing a myriad of different traps to catch the ducks both prior to breeding and on the nests. We also need to develop a mobile surgery field centre, get trained and permitted to conduct anaesthesiology, and build truck mounted telemetry systems prior to deployment in June.

Report by Auckland Waikato Fish & Game southern gamebird manager David Klee.


To view the recent movements of monitored birds click on the image below (you will need Google Earth to view).

Last updated: October 7, 2013


Fish & Game investigates ducklings' fate -


Click here to view a short video production detailing part of Fish & Game's Mallard Research.

2. Standardising monitoring techniques

Perhaps the least 'sexy' of the mallard research projects, monitoring trends in mallard populations is nonetheless the foundation from which all other research and management responses are driven.

If we don't know what the population is doing how do we know when to intervene and whether any outcome is achieved.

Currently a handful of Fish & Game regions undertake an array of surveys to monitor fluctuations and longer term trends in mallard numbers within their boundaries.

It is the aim of this research project to establish mallard management areas based on mallard population boundaries rather than Fish & Game boundaries. The physical attributes of the area to be monitored, the precision of the information required, and decisions based on this will determine the technique.


A research outline has been produced providing options for identifying the annual status of mallard populations in Duck Management Units (DMU) across the country. Click here for more information.

3. Defining Mallard habitat characteristics for recriutment


Click here for details.

4. Modelling Harvest Regulation effectiveness


Click here for details.

5. Citizen science for reporting on mallard brood, survival and habitat

Click here for more details about this project.

  • LATEST UPDATE (April 15, 2014)

Operation Duck Pond has had some success over the past few months. We were able to get a webpage up describing the project.

We have also been running a Facebook page (link below) that had a great start with close to 100 (now at 120) 'likes' within the first weeks, after that we have been slowly climbing. We usually get 30-50 people who “saw” each post put on the site. The best was 506 people who saw an article on what Fish & Game is doing with floating nesting platforms.

There has been good media coverage with articles in the Fish & Game magazine, the Flight Magazine, and the Hunting and Fishing catalogue. Fish & Game's Public Awareness team have done a wonderful job assisting me on this part of the project. They also plan to filming a few segments in June both for promotion and also instructional.

We currently have eight ponds (4 Eastern, 1 Hawkes Bay, 1 North Canterbury, 1 Southland, and 1 Wellington). Based on enquiries we're receiiving, it's likely we will have more in the weeks to come.

Report compiled by Northland Fish & Game officer Nathan Burkepile.

'Operation Duck Pond is go! Check out the project's Facebook page here and get involved.

If you want to get involved by sending us some information or feedback, please email us.