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The habits of the redhead duck (Aythya americana) were studied in the Flathead Valley of western Montana in 1960 and 1961 to determine their habitat preferences in this pothole breeding ground. The 2,600-acre study area, surrounding the Ninepipe Reservoir, contained 686 potholes. Redheads usually were paired by the time they arrived on the study area in March. The average density of redhead breeding pairs was 25 pairs per square mile. For all spring activities except nesting, the birds used large, deep, open potholes or breeding-pair potholes. The several breeding-pair potholes and the nesting pothole utilized by the pair comprised their home range. Starting in late April, the pairs moved about the home range as the hens selected nesting sites, usually in the dense emergent vegetation of small, shallow potholes. Hard-stem bulrush (Scirpus acutus) and cat-tail (Typha latifolia) were preferred nesting cover. Redhead nesting success was only 15 percent, a low rate apparently caused by degenerate nesting behavior complicated by high redhead density, a lack of suitable nest hosts, and certain habitat deficiencies. By late June most drakes and unsuccessful hens had moved from the potholes to nearby reservoirs. All successful hens led their newly hatched broods from the nesting potholes to larger brood potholes and many eventually moved to the reservoir. By mid-July virtually all redheads had moved from the potholes to the reservoirs, where they remained until fall migration.
Additional Publication Details
Breeding ecology of the redhead duck in western Montana