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Factors Associated with Duck Nest Success
in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada

Habitat Preference and Use for Nesting


The nesting habitat most preferred by mallards was Brush; Right-of-way was second, and lowest preference was for Cropland, Grass, and Hayland (Table 6). In parkland, we estimated that 39% of mallard nests were in Odd area, whereas in prairie, 49% of their nests were in Brush (Table 7). Proportions of mallard nests found in Right-of-way were similar in parkland (25%) and prairie (24%).

The nesting habitat most preferred by gadwalls also was Brush; Odd area was second, and lowest preference was for Cropland, Grass, and Wetland (Table 6). In parkland, we estimated that 79% of gadwall nests were in Odd area; in prairie, their nests were in relatively similar proportions in Brush (49%) and Odd area (41%) (Table 7).

Blue-winged teals preferred mostly to nest in Right-of-way; Brush was second, followed closely by Odd area and Grass (Table 6). Cropland was least preferred as nesting habitat by blue-winged teals. In parkland, we estimated that nests were initiated by blue-winged teals in relatively similar proportions in Grass (37%) and Odd area (33%); in prairie, 46% of their nests were in Grass and 29% were in Right-of-way (Table 7).

Odd area and Hayland were both ranked high in preference for nesting by northern shovelers; Wetland was third, and lowest preference was for Cropland and Woodland (Table 6). In parkland, we estimated that 44% of northern shoveler nests were in Odd area and 31% were in Grass; in prairie, 45% of their nests were in Grass and 23% were in Odd area (Table 7). Nearly all nesting in Wetland by northern shovelers was in dry wetland basins (Table 8).

Preferences for nesting habitat by northern pintails were similar to those of mallards, except that Cropland was ranked third (Table 6). In parkland, we estimated that 34% of northern pintail nests were in Cropland and 27% were in Right-of-way; in prairie, 45% of their nests were in Cropland and 31% were in Brush (Table 7).

Table 6. Average availability (%) of habitats considered suitable for nesting on study areas in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada, 1982-85, and probability (%) that a female would select a habitat for nesting if all habitats were equally availablea. Columns sum to 100% with rounding errors.
Habitat Probability (%) of selection
Class % availableb Mallard Gadwall Blue-winged teal Northern shoveler Northern pintail
Cropland 16 <1 <1 <1 <1 5
Grass 16 <1 <1 14 14 <1
Brush 1 81 77 18 5 78
Wetland 4 1 <1 3 19 <1
Hayland 2 <1 2 10 25 2
Woodland 2 3 1 1 <1 <1
Right-of-way 2 10 4 39 10 12
Odd areac 5 4 16 16 26 2
aAn average of 50% of landscape in all area-years was classified as Unsuitable (included area originally classified as Barren   plus area of Cropland that was cultivated before early May and area of Wetland that was open water in early May or   contained sparse emergent nesting cover) and not available as nesting cover.
bAvailability is based on Table 2.
cOdd area included patches of cover <2ha in size and an array of features usually found in Cropland (e.g., rock piles, gravel   borrow pits, narrow borders of upland vegetation around Wetland and along fences between areas of Cropland).

Table 7. Average estimated proportiona (%) of nests initiated by the 5 common duck species in habitats suitable for nesting in 17 area-yearsb in the parkland and 14 area-years in the prairie, 1982-85, in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. Rows sum to 100% with rounding errors.
Species Nest initiations (%)
Cropland Grass Brush Wetland Hayland Woodland Right-of- way Odd area
Parkland
Mallard 5 2 14 8 <1 9 25 39
Gadwallc <1 1 9 <1 4 1 7 79
Blue-winged teal <1 37 1 3 4 1 21 33
Northern shovelerd <1 31 <1 12 8 <1 5 44
Northern pintaild 34 5 11 <1 5 <1 27 18
Prairie
Mallard 7 1 49 5 <1 <1 24 13
Gadwall <1 1 49 <1 3 0 9 41
Blue-winged teald <1 46 5 3 5 <1 29 14
Northern shovelerd 1 45 1 14 11 0 7 23
Northern pintail 45 3 31 <1 2 0 15 3
aNumbers of nests initiated annually in each habitat were estimated as the product of habitat composition and species   preference for nesting in a habitat (Table 6), weighted by number of breeding pairs on the study area.
bRefers to 1 area studied for 1 year.
cArea-years reduced by 2 because breeding pairs were not detected on all areas each year.
dArea-years reduced by 1 because breeding pairs were not detected on all areas each year.

Table 8. Number of nests of the 5 common duck species and frequency (%) of locations among upland and wetland sites in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada, 1982-85. Rows sum to 100% with rounding errors.
Species n Frequency of locations
Upland Wetland
Wet Dry
Mallard 1,885 81 10 8
Gadwall 510 95 <1 5
Blue-winged teala 995 84 1 15
Northern shoveler 616 82 2 16
Northern pintail 841 92 2 6
aIncludes 2 cinnamon teal.


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