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Age-class separation of blue-winged ducks

January 1, 1995

Accurate determination of age is of fundamental importance to population and life history studies of waterfowl and their management. Therefore, we developed quantitative methods that separate adult and immature blue-winged teal (Anas discors), cinnamon teal (A. cyanoptera), and northern shovelers (A. clypeata) during spring and summer. To assess suitability of discriminant models using 9 remigial measurements, we compared model performance (% agreement between predicted age and age assigned to birds on the basis of definitive cloacal or rectral feather characteristics) in different flyways (Mississippi and Pacific) and between years (1990-91 and 1991-92). We also applied age-classification models to wings obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harvest surveys in the Mississippi and Central-Pacific flyways (wing-bees) for which age had been determined using qualitative characteristics (i.e., remigial markings, shape, or wear). Except for male northern shovelers, models correctly aged lt 90% (range 70-86%) of blue-winged ducks. Model performance varied among species and differed between sexes and years. Proportions of individuals that were correctly aged were greater for males (range 63-86%) than females (range 39-69%). Models for northern shovelers performed better in flyway comparisons within year (1991-92, La. model applied to Calif. birds, and Calif. model applied to La. birds: 90 and 94% for M, and 89 and 76% for F, respectively) than in annual comparisons within the Mississippi Flyway (1991-92 model applied to 1990-91 data: 79% for M, 50% for F). Exclusion of measurements that varied by flyway or year did not improve model performance. Quantitative methods appear to be of limited value for age separation of female blue-winged ducks. Close agreement between predicted age and age assigned to wings from the wing-bees suggests that qualitative and quantitative methods may be equally accurate for age separation of male blue-winged ducks. We interpret annual and flyway differences in remigial measurements and reduced performance of age classification models as evidence of high variability in size of blue-winged ducks' remiges. Variability in remigial size of these and other small-bodied waterfowl may be related to nutrition during molt.

Publication Year 1995
Title Age-class separation of blue-winged ducks
Authors W.L. Hohman, J.L. Moore, D.J. Twedt, John G. Mensik, E. Logerwell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 5223403
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center