Factors influencing autumn–winter movements of midcontinent Mallards and consequences for harvest and habitat management

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Annual phenology and distributions of migratory wildlife have been noticeably influenced by climate change, leading to concerns about sustainable populations. Recent studies exploring conditions influencing autumn migration departure have provided conflicting insights regarding factors influencing the movements of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), a popular game species. We determined factors affecting timing and magnitude of long-distance movements of 97 juvenile Mallards during autumn-winter across the midcontinent of North America marked with implanted transmitters in North and South Dakota, 2018–2019. Factors influencing variation in movement timing, along with direction and magnitudes, depended on type of movement (i.e., regional [25–310 km], initial migration, or subsequent migration movements [>310 km]). Photoperiod influenced probability of initiating all movements, although the effect was most influential for regional movements. Minimum temperature most influenced initial migration events (probability of movement increased 29% for each 1°C decrease); favorable winds also increased likelihood of initial migration events. Probability of subsequent migration events increased 80% for each 1 cm increase in depth of snow. Subsequent migration movements also were 2.0 times more likely to occur on weekend days, indicating disturbance from humans may influence movements. Migration distances increased 166 km for each 1°C reduction in minimum temperature. We also observed markedly different autumn-winter distributions of marked birds between years. Median locations during autumn-winter 2018–2019 were ~250 km farther north and ~300 km farther west during mid-December–January compared to the same time in 2019–2020. Concurrently, harvest rates for marked females and males were 10% and 26% during autumn-winter 2018–2019 and 26% and 31% during autumn-winter 2019–2020. Climate-related changes may result in increasingly variable autumn-winter distributions, with implications for wildlife recreationalists, conservation planners, and harvest managers.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Factors influencing autumn–winter movements of midcontinent Mallards and consequences for harvest and habitat management
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.10605
Volume 13
Issue 10
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description e10605, 18 p.
Country United States
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