Skip to main content

Food falling from the sky for ducks in southwest Arkansas

BY Randy Zellers

ON 08-28-2019


Aug. 28, 2019

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

SARATOGA – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and Southwest Arkansas Water District to coordinate a drawdown on Millwood Lake earlier this summer to promote wildlife habitat through aerial seeding of millet along the lake’s abundant mudflats.

The Corps dropped the lake level 2 feet on July 19 to allow for infrastructure repairs to the spillway and other infrastructure on the lake. This drawdown also is part of an annual partnership to improve habitat for fish in the lake as well as waterfowl habitat along its shoreline.

The drawdown dries and compacts the soil of the shallow reservoir, reducing silt load and enabling plants to grow. Annual smartweeds and native millets will sprout on the mudflats from seeds remaining from previous years, which will offer food for waterfowl and nutrients for the lake’s food chain as vegetation decomposes. But biologists go much further than simply drawing down the water.

Aerial seeding Millwood2.jpg

“We aerially dropped about 7,500 pounds of Japanese millet seed on those exposed mudflats to give the system a boost,” said AGFC Regional Biologist Supervisor Griffin Park. “Roughly 500 acres of mudflats were seeded to add more wetland habitat when the ducks arrive this winter.”

Park says seeding most of the mudflats on the lake would be nearly impossible to do by tractor or land, but aerially seeding has proven to be effective and creates less disturbance to the aquatic habitat.

Park says the water level will be held 2 feet low Sept. 1 so the millet can sprout and grow. Then the Corps will raise the lake in stages to encourage growth of the smartweeds and millet.

“Just like with rice farming, you want to put some water on it to encourage growth and get it to top out right,” Park said. “It should be back to conservation pool by the end of October, and by then it should be tall enough that the heads will be above the water line and be available for the ducks.”

The partnership to produce this boost to waterfowl habitat has been in place for about 10 years, and during that time, biologists have been able to provide the millet in all but two of those years. 

“It’s just a great way we can add some habitat for hunters and ducks in Southwest Arkansas on public land,” Park said. “And it’s very popular with our hunters. I get weekly texts and emails asking how the millet is doing each year by people wanting to get out when the ducks arrive.”

Aerial seeding Millwood3.jpg

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter E-mails

Don’t miss another issue. Sign up now to receive the AGFC Wildlife Weekly Newsletter in your mailbox every Wednesday afternoon (Waterfowl Reports are published weekly during waterfowl season and periodically outside the season). Fishing Reports arrive on Thursdays. Fill in the following fields and hit submit. Thanks, and welcome!