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Evaluation of aerial transects for counting winter mallards

January 1, 1992

Winter waterfowl surveys rarely use sampling methods, and little is known about the precision and biases of their population estimates. Consequently, we developed aerial transect surveys (n=5) in 4 strata comprising 16 substrata in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley during winters 1987-88 through 1989-90 to estimate mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) population indices and determine regional patterns of habitat use. Mallard population indices ranged from 1,147,628 (SE=192,341) in December 1988 to 1,790,708 (SE=179,406) in January 1988. Coefficients of variation (CV's) for early winter surveys averaged 0.15 and those for late winter surveys averaged 0.10. During early winter, 59-69% of mallards were on wetlands with water regimes managed for waterfowl; whereas in late winter, 52-79% used wetlands with unmanaged water regimes. Late winter was wet during 1987-88 and 1988-89, and most mallards (62-68%) were on naturally flooded croplands. Use of forested wetlands (3-11%) and moist-soil habitats (3-29%) varied among surveys but was not correlated with water conditions. The number of mallards using naturally flooded croplands (e.g., >1,100,000 in Jan 1988) illustrated the extent of habitat use on private lands. We recommend transect surveys (e.g., 5-yr intervals) for evaluating responses of mallard populations to management programs and as a sampling framework for integrating regional waterfowl research and management data.

Publication Year 1992
Title Evaluation of aerial transects for counting winter mallards
Authors K. J. Reinecke, M.W. Brown, J.R. Nassar
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 5223021
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center