Habitat selection trade-offs, male quality and reproductive performance of female mallards
Conservation programs for breeding ducks in North America are typically designed to enhance nest success by establishing or restoring attractive perennial nesting cover or promoting favourable agricultural practices. Thus, a central objective is to attract ducks to habitats where females have higher survival and reproductive rates, primarily greater nest success. Using data collected from 1993 – 2000, I investigated hypotheses proposed to explain inconsistent patterns of habitat selection detected during nesting and brood–rearing stages in free-ranging mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) throughout the Canadian Prairie Parklands. By simultaneously considering indices of body condition and size of male and female mallards and plumage score of males, I also evaluated the role of male quality in reproductive investment and patterns of breeding success of females. In general, wild mallards mated assortatively by body condition but not body size. Yearling females nested earlier and had higher nest survival when mated to males with better plumage quality. When paired with larger-bodied males, yearling females renested more often, whereas nest and brood survival increased among older females. I characterized the habitat composition of 100 and 500 m radius buffers surrounding nest sites and related habitat features to survival of nests, broods and females. Habitat selection trade-offs were detected among perennial habitats and planted cover, such that nest survival increased in these habitats whereas duckling survival decreased. Furthermore, at large spatial scales, nest survival decreased in areas with greater amounts of cropland whereas duckling survival increased. Survival rates of females increased with greater amounts of seasonal wetlands, but nest survival decreased in such areas. Semi-permanent wetlands were associated with decreased nest survival at larger spatial scales, but associated with higher nest success at finer scales. Benefits of increasing perennial and planted cover habitats to increase nest survival could be partly offset by costs in terms of lower duckling survival, whereas opposite patterns existed in areas of abundant seasonal. The restoration of seasonal wetlands in perennial habitats could offset these trade-offs but net impacts of habitat selection and survival trade-offs on annual reproductive success must first be evaluated.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorClark, Robert G.
CommitteeHowerter, David W.; Wiebe, Karen; Bell, Scott
Copyright DateSeptember 2013