ABSTRACT

Understanding how ducks use breeding habitat can help managers ensure conservation efforts are focused on the types, locations, and connectivity of habitat these species require. Recent technological advancements have provided high temporal and spatial resolution on animal movements, revealing unexpected patterns in movement and habitat use. As part of a larger study, we attached a GPS-GSM backpack transmitter to a second-year female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) captured in a decoy trap on 28 April 2018 in Alberta, Canada's boreal forest. Following marking, we qualitatively inferred from the duck's movement path that she made at least one nesting attempt; however, we were unable to confirm a nest location. Approximately 30 d after marking, the duck made a long-distance (>200 km) movement west-southwest into the boreal transition zone and then proceeded to make another long-distance movement southeast (>450 km) into the prairie potholes region, where we suspected she made at least one more nesting attempt in early July based on clustered GPS data. After spending just over 30 d in a localized prairie potholes region (all points within ∼1 km radius), she began moving north in early August and by the end of the month had returned to within 4 km of where she was originally marked, and to the same boreal wetland where she first attempted to nest. Overall, the female Mallard traveled >1,000 km within the breeding period and used habitats in 2 disparate biomes for presumed nesting, the prairie potholes and the boreal forest. Herein we provide additional details about our observation and propose some hypotheses to explain the phenomenon.

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