Nesting Biology of Mallards in West-central Illinois

Aaron P. Yetter, Joshua D. Stafford, Christopher S. Hine, Matthew W. Bowyer, Stephen P. Havera, Michelle M. Horath

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The number of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) breeding in Illinois and eastern North America has increased in recent decades; however, few studies have investigated the nesting biology of Mallards outside primary production areas. Therefore, we radiomarked resident female Mallards (n = 148) in west-central Illinois during 1998–2003 to assess nesting parameters and evaluate recruitment. Mean initiation date for first nests ranged from 22 April to 6 May, and the majority (75%) of nests were initiated by 20 May. Therefore, the majority of nests were predicted to hatch by 24 June. The nesting season averaged 88 days (range: 77–103 days). The proportion of unsuccessful females that renested ranged from 50.0–85.7%, and adults were more likely to renest (75.0%) than yearlings (48.0%). Nest success ranged from 9.8–33.3% and was 19.6% overall; hen success was 28.3%. Initial brood size was 8.2 ± 0.3 ducklings, but brood size declined to 3.0 ± 0.6 ducklings by 17 days posthatch. Brood survival to 20 days was 0.759 ± 0.081, and 20-day duckling survival was 0.413 ± 0.035. Female survival during spring-summer ranged from 0.546–1.00 and averaged 0.710 ± 0.096. Likewise, estimated Mallard recruitment varied annually (range: 0.302–0.672 female ducklings/female). Assuming constant female and duckling survival, we estimated that a recruitment rate of 0.613 female ducklings/adult female was necessary to maintain a stable Mallard breeding population in west-central Illinois. Estimated Mallard reproduction and recruitment was similar to that observed in other areas of North America. Nest success and hen success approached or exceeded estimated thresholds for population stability in most years; however, hen success averaged over the study period was insufficient for local population maintenance and growth. Female survival was comparable to that observed in other studies but may have limited population growth in some years. Duckling survival was sufficient for population maintenance. Management designed to enhance hen success and brood habitat may augment Mallard recruitment in west-central Illinois.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1–38
JournalIllinois Natural History Survey Bulletin
StatePublished - Sep 2009


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