Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


Great Plains Research 22 (Spring 2012):69-78


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Lesser scaup (Aythya affinis [Eyton]) populations remain below their long-term average despite improved habitat conditions along spring migration routes and at breeding grounds. Scaup are typically associated with large, semipermanent wetlands and exhibit regional preferences along migration routes. Identifying consistently used habitats for conservation and restoration is complicated by irregular wetland availability due to the dynamic climate. We modeled long-term wetland use by lesser scaup in eastern South Dakota based on surveys conducted during below-average (1987-1989) and above-average (1993-2002) water condition years. Wetland permanence, longitude, and physiographic region were all significant determinants of use (P < 0.01). Long-term use was best described by a quadratic equation including wetland surface area variability, an index of wetland hydrodynamics that is linked to productivity, biodiversity, and value to waterfowl. Contrary to previous findings, our study shows that over the long term, lesser scaup are more than twice as likely to use permanent wetlands as they are semipermanent wetlands. The northern region of South Dakota's Prairie Coteau, which holds the highest density of hydrologically dynamic permanent wetlands, should be considered an area of conservation concern for lesser scaup. The criteria we identified may be used to identify important lesser scaup habitats in other regions of the Prairie Pothole Region.