Spring migration ecology of waterfowl in the Central Flyway

Spring migration is a key portion of the annual cycle for waterfowl due to its proximity to the breeding period and for the potential for resource limitation during this time.  Research during spring has lagged behind other periods of the annual cycle, despite the potential for events during spring to influence successful reproduction. Arctic-nesting geese rely heavily on nutrient reserves (lipid and protein) accumulated during spring migration for egg laying and/or incubation.  Nesting pintails rely on endogenous lipids to greater degree than other ducks, and lipid dynamics prior to arriving at breeding areas may influence initiation of nesting, clutch size, and other aspects of recruitment in pintails. 

The Rainwater Basin and central Platte River Valley in south-central Nebraska are major staging areas for migratory waterfowl during late winter and early spring.  Wetlands of the Rainwater Basin are historic staging sites for a large proportion of midcontinent populations of waterfowl, including white-fronted geese and northern pintails.  In addition, several million snow geese use the region during spring, a drastic increase over the past 3 decades, raising concerns of potential impacts on the capacity of other waterfowl species and sandhill cranes to meet nutritional needs.  Given the status of south-central Nebraska as a major migration corridor for migrating waterbirds in the Central Flyway, researchers at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center have conducted studies to 1) investigate nutrient reserves of snow geese, white-fronted geese, and pintails during spring migration; 2) determine habitat use, movements, and time-activity budgets of white-fronted and snow geese; and 3) describe spring-migration ecology of pintails using radio telemetry.

Principal Investigator(s):

Aaron T Pearse

Gary L Krapu

Project Status:



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