Population estimates for long-tailed ducks in North America have declined by nearly 50% over the past 30 years. Life history and population dynamics of this species are difficult to ascertain, because the birds nest at low densities across a broad range of habitat types. Between 1991 and 2004, we collected information on productivity and survival of long-tailed ducks at three locations on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Clutch size averaged 7.1 eggs, and nesting success averaged 30%. Duckling survival to 30 days old averaged 10% but was highly variable among years, ranging from 0% to 25%. Apparent annual survival of adult females based on mark-recapture of nesting females was estimated at 74%. We combined these estimates of survival and productivity into a matrix-based population model, which predicted an annual population decline of 19%. Elasticities indicated that population growth rate (λ) was most sensitive to changes in adult female survival. Further, the relatively high sensitivity of λ to duckling survival suggests that low duckling survival may be a bottleneck to productivity in some years. These data represent the first attempt to synthesize a population model for this species. Although our analyses were hampered by the small sample sizes inherent in studying a dispersed nesting species, our model provides a basis for management actions and can be enhanced as additional data become available.
Additional publication details
Population dynamics of long-tailed ducks breeding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska