The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time
We investigated the breeding performance of American black ducks (Anas rubripes) on Smith Island, Chesapeake Bay, to improve our understanding of island black duck breeding ecology and to make management recommendations to enhance productivity. During 1995-96, we implanted 56 female black ducks with 20-g radio transmitters and tracked 35 of the individuals through the breeding season to locate nests, determine nest fate, and identify brood habitat. We also increased preseason banding efforts and compared capture characteristics over 12 years with those from the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, a banding site on the mainland of Tangier Sound. A low rate of nesting (37%), lack of renesting, and poor hatching success (31%) indicated that island salt marsh habitats present a harsh environment for breeding black ducks. Black ducks located 11 of 13 nests (85%) in black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) marsh where they were vulnerable to flooding from extreme tides and to egg predators. No nests were found on forested tree hammocks, a feature that distinguishes Smith Island from nearby South Marsh and Bloodsworth Islands. Nest predators included red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), herring gulls (Larus argentams), fish crows (Corvus ossifragus), and, potentially, Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Unlike mainland red foxes, foxes radio tracked on Smith Island were found to be capable swimmers and effective low marsh predators. We found shoreline meadows of widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) to be important foraging sites for black ducks and suspected that the virtual absence of fresh water in this high salinity environment (1217+ ppt) to incur some cost in terms of growth and survival of ducklings. Preseason bandings revealed a high proportion of banded adults and a strong positive correlation in age ratios with the Deal Island banding site. This latter finding strongly suggests a negative universal effect of storm tides on nest success for Tangier Sound black ducks. Management to reduce nest predators, especially gulls and foxes, likely will have the greatest immediate benefit for island breeding black ducks.