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Postbreeding movements and molting ecology of female gadwalls and mallards

September 21, 2022

The wing molt is an important annual life-history event that occurs in waterfowl and molt site selection can play an important role in determining survival. We tracked postbreeding movements of gadwall (Mareca strepera) and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) females that bred in the Suisun Marsh (Suisun) of California, USA, to determine molt site selection and wing molt chronology. We attached backpack transmitters with global positioning system and global system for mobile communications (GPS-GSM) technology to female gadwalls and mallards within Suisun and tracked the birds following the breeding season during 2015–2018. We determined molt locations for 52 female gadwalls and 112 female mallards. Thirty of the marked gadwall females selected 2 regions within southern Oregon-northeastern California (SONEC) to undergo molt; 16 molted in the Upper Klamath Basin (southern OR) and 14 in the Lower Klamath Basin (northeastern CA). A large portion of female mallards molted in Suisun (n = 34) and the Sacramento Valley in California (n = 31) but also used the Upper Klamath Basin (n = 13), Lower Klamath Basin (n = 12), and the Yolo–Delta region in California (n = 12). On average, gadwalls departed Suisun on 30 July (±17.82 days [SD]), and mallards departed on 24 July (±22.69 days). Mean start date of molt for each species was similar: 27 August (±16.09 days) for gadwalls and 26 August (±21.03 days) for mallards. Molt end date was analogous for each species as well. Molt ended on average 1 October (±15.52 days) for gadwalls and on 5 October (±18.34 days) for mallards. Gadwalls and mallards showed intraspecific differences in average molt start and end date within the 3 main geographical zones: Suisun, Central Valley of California (Central Valley), and SONEC. Mean duration of wing molt for gadwalls was 34.72± 8.62 days and 41.09 ± 12.54 days for mallards. Both species primarily selected permanent marsh to undergo wing molt (gadwalls = 90.4%, mallards = 63.4%). Conservation and active management of these high-use molting areas used by California's primary breeding waterfowl species could enhance postbreeding survival, leading to increased breeding waterfowl populations.

Publication Year 2022
Title Postbreeding movements and molting ecology of female gadwalls and mallards
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22314
Authors Jeffrey D Kohl, Michael L. Casazza, Cory T. Overton, Mark P. Herzog, Josh T. Ackerman, Cliff L. Feldheim, John M. Eadie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70238504
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center