Date of this Version
Waterbirds 34(1): 10-18, 2011
Spring-migration ecology of staging Northern Pintails, Anas acuta, was investigated in south-central Nebraska, USA. Habitat associations, local movements, settling patterns, arrival dates, residency times and survival were estimated from 71 radiomarked pintails during spring 2001, 2003 and 2004, and diet determined from 130 females collected during spring 1998 and 1999. Seventy-two percent of pintail diurnal locations were in palustrine wetlands, 7% in riverine wetlands, 3% in lacustrine wetlands, 6% in municipal sewage lagoons and irrigation reuse pits and 10.5% in croplands. Emergent wetlands with hemi-marsh conditions were used diurnally more often than wetlands with either open or closed vegetation structures. Evening foraging flights averaged 4.3 km (SE = 0.6) and 72% were to cornfields. In accord with these findings, 87% of 93 pintails collected during spring 1998 and 1999 returning to evening roosts consumed corn, which represented 84% dry mass of all foods. Pintails collected on noncropped wetlands ingested invertebrates and seeds from wetland plants more frequently than birds returning to roost. Radiomarked pintails arrived in Nebraska on 7 March 2003 and 18 February 2004; average arrival date was six days earlier during 2004 compared to 2003. Residency time for individuals varied greatly (1-40 days) yet yearly means were similar and averaged 9.5 days within the region. No mortality was detected for 71 birds monitored over 829 exposure days. Conservation planners linking population dynamics and habitat conditions at spring-staging areas need to focus on pintail body condition during spring and its connection with reproductive success and survival during the breeding season.