US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version



U.S. Government Work


Pintail Disturbance and Energy Use 294 - 303


Winter conditions impose hardships on waterfowl, impacting how they apportion energy and time. Human disturbances may affect this energetic balance, influence lipid reserves, and potentially survival. Objectives of this study were to determine effects of environmental and anthropogenic factors on energetic expenditure (kcal/day) of Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) in behaviors commonly associated with a disturbance response (alert, locomotion, and flight) during winter 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico, USA. The refuge is a frequently visited ecotourism destination with over 170,000 visitors each winter. Thermoregulatory cost, time-of-winter, amount of natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and forage availability were examined to determine their influence on pintail energetic response (e.g., flight, locomotion, alert behavior). Average number of pintails ranged from 7,524-15,769. Using Akaike Information Criteria, the top-ranked model indicated that increased thermoregulatory cost, and by association decreased temperature, may cause a decline in energetic response of pintails to disturbances. Modeled values for energetic response had a mean (± SE) of 175 ± 11.5 kcal/day in year 1, and 111.7 ± 7.22 kcal/day in year 2. Neither the amount of disturbance nor forage availability strongly influenced energetic response. Results of this study raise questions about the efficacy of using behavior or energy expenditure data, alone, to assess anthropogenic disturbance effects on waterfowl.