Generalizations used to support hypotheses about the evolution of fidelity to breeding areas in birds include the tendency for fidelity to be greater in adult birds than in yearlings. In ducks, in contrast to most bird species, fidelity is thought to be greater among females than males. Researchers have suggested that fidelity in ducks is positively correlated with pond availability. However, most estimates of fidelity on which these inferences have been based represent functions of survival and recapture-resighting probabilities in addition to fidelity. We applied the modeling approach developed by Burnham to recapture and band recovery data of mallard ducks to test the above hypotheses about fidelity. We found little evidence of sex differences in adult philopatry, with females being slightly more philopatric than males in one study area, but not in a second study area. However, yearling females were more philopatric than yearling males in both study areas. We found that adults were generally more philopatric than yearlings. We could find no relationship between fidelity and pond availability. Our results, while partially supporting current theory concerning sex and age differences in philopatry, suggest that adult male mallards are more philopatric than once thought, and we recommend that other generalizations about philopatry be revisited with proper estimation techniques.
Additional publication details
Sources of variation in breeding-ground fidelity of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)