US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Auk 105: 102-110. January 1988.


We measured the effect of diet quality on variation in the seasonal pattern of Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) reproduction. Twenty wild-strain hens, consisting of 10 sibling pairs, were maintained in captivity. One sib of each pair was fed an enriched diet, and the other was fed wheat. The wheat diet resulted in reduced clutch size, egg size, laying rate, number of nesting attempts, and total eggs laid. Diet did not affect laying initiation, duration, or the seasonal pattern of change in clutch and egg size with each renest. We believe the variation and pattern observed are adaptations to a highly variable prairie environment where the probability of reproductive success decreases as the season progresses.