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Sitting ducklings: Timing of hatch, nest departure, and predation risk for dabbling duck broods

April 16, 2019

For ground‐nesting waterfowl, the timing of egg hatch and duckling departure from the nest may be influenced by the risk of predation at the nest and en route to wetlands and constrained by the time required for ducklings to imprint on the hen and be physically able to leave the nest. We determined the timing of hatch, nest departure, and predation on dabbling duck broods using small video cameras placed at the nests of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos; n = 26), gadwall (Mareca strepera; n = 24), and cinnamon teal (Anas cyanoptera; n = 5). Mallard eggs began to hatch throughout the day and night, whereas gadwall eggs generally started to hatch during daylight hours (mean 7.5 hr after dawn). Among all species, duckling departure from the nest occurred during daylight (98%), and 53% of hens typically left the nest with their broods 1–4 hr after dawn. For mallard and gadwall, we identified three strategies for the timing of nest departure: (a) 9% of broods left the nest the same day that eggs began to hatch (6–12 hr later), (b) 81% of broods left the nest the day after eggs began to hatch, and (c) 10% of broods waited 2 days to depart the nest after eggs began to hatch, leaving the nest just after the second dawn (27–42 hr later). Overall, eggs were depredated at 10% of nests with cameras in the 2 days prior to hatch and ducklings were depredated at 15% of nests with cameras before leaving the nest. Our results suggest that broods prefer to depart the nest early in the morning, which may best balance developmental constraints with predation risk both at the nest and en route to wetlands.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Sitting ducklings: Timing of hatch, nest departure, and predation risk for dabbling duck broods
DOI 10.1002/ece3.5146
Authors Sarah H. Peterson, Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog, Christopher Hartman, Rebecca Croston, Cliff L. Feldheim, Michael L. Casazza
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Series Number
Index ID 70203441
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center