Mate loss in winter and mallard reproduction

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) frequently pair during winter, and duck hunting seasons have been extended until the end of January in several southern states in the Mississippi Flyway. Therefore, we simulated dissolution of pair bonds from natural or hunting mortality by removing mates of wild-strain, captive, yearling female mallards in late January 1996 and early February 1997 to test if mate loss in winter would affect subsequent pair formation and reproductive performance. Most (97%) widowed females paired again. Nesting and incubation frequencies, nest-initiation date, days between first and second nests, and egg mass did not differ (P > 0.126) between widowed and control (i.e., no mate loss experienced) females in 1996 and 1997. In 1997, widowed females laid 1.91 fewer eggs in first nests (P = 0.014) and 3.75 fewer viable eggs in second nests (P = 0.056). Computer simulations with a mallard productivity model (incorporating default parameters [i.e., average environmental conditions]) indicated that the observed decreased clutch size of first nests, fewer viable eggs in second nests, and these factors combined had potential to decrease recruitment rates of yearling female mallards 9%, 12%, and 20%. Our results indicate that winter mate loss could reduce reproductive performance by yearling female mallards in some years. We suggest caution regarding extending duck hunting seasons in winter without concurrent evaluations of harvest and demographics of mallard and other duck populations.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mate loss in winter and mallard reproduction
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.2307/3802651
Volume 63
Issue 2
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Society
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 621
Last page 629
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