Winter Waterbird Use and Food Resources of Aquaculture Lands in Mississippi
Feaga, James Stephen
AdvisorVilella, Francisco J.
Kaminski, Richard M.
Davis, Brian J.
The conversion of wetland systems to aquaculture provides alternate aquatic habitats for a variety of waterbirds. In response to the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill, the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) enacted the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI) through which NRCS partnered with landowners to provide additional wetlands and associated foraging habitat for migrating waterbirds. During winters 2011–2013, I estimated abundances of waterbirds, seeds, and invertebrates in six production and idled aquaculture facilities in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Wintering waterbirds exhibited similar densities on production (i.e., ~22 birds/ha) and idled (i.e., ~20 birds/ha) MBHI sites. My results suggest production and idled MBHI aquaculture impoundments produced suitable conditions for waterbirds in terms of food and habitat. I recommend future programs strive to enroll properties that promote an increased diversity of habitats in terms of vegetation structure, available forage, and varying water depth, with the aim of maximizing waterbird diversity.