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Reproductive strategies of northern geese: Why wait?

January 1, 2007

Migration and reproductive strategies in waterbirds are tightly linked, with timing of arrival and onset of nesting having important consequences for reproductive success. Whether migratory waterbirds are capital or income breeders is predicated by their spring migration schedule, how long they are on breeding areas before nesting, and how adapted they are to exploiting early spring foods at northern breeding areas. However, for most species, we know little about individual migration schedules, arrival times, and duration of residence on breeding areas before nesting. To document these relationships in a northern nesting goose, we radiotracked winter-marked Tule Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons elgasi; hereafter “Tule Geese”; n = 116) from the time of their arrival in Alaska through nesting. Tule Geese arrived on coastal feeding areas in mid-April and moved to nesting locations a week later. They initiated nests 15 days (range: 6–24 days) after arrival, a period roughly equivalent to the duration of rapid follicle growth. Tule Geese that arrived the earliest were more likely to nest than geese that arrived later; early arrivals also spent more time on the breeding grounds and nested earlier than geese that arrived later. The length of the prenesting period was comparable to that of other populations of this species, but longer than for goose species that initiate rapid follicle growth before arrival on the breeding grounds. We suggest that Tule Geese nesting in more temperate climates are more likely to delay breeding to exploit local food resources than Arctic-nesting species that may be constrained by short growing seasons.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2007
Title Reproductive strategies of northern geese: Why wait?
DOI 10.1642/0004-8038(2007)124[594:RSONGW]2.0.CO;2
Authors Craig R. Ely, K.S. Bollinger, R.V. Densmore, T.C. Rothe, M.J. Petrula, John Y. Takekawa, D.L. Orthmeyer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Series Number
Index ID 70029929
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center

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