The southernmost major breeding area of Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) is located at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada, in the high desert of the western Great Basin. We determined winter distributions, recovery rates, and survival for Canvasbacks banded in Nevada from March to November, 1968-2000. Winter recovery distributions did not differ by sex or age, but differed between direct recoveries (same year as banding) and indirect recoveries (after year of banding), indicating variable site use between years. Of direct band returns (October-March), 92% were from the Pacific Flyway and 56% were from California alone. In California, recovery distributions shifted from southern California and the San Francisco Bay estuary in the 1970s to the Central Valley in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s, there were no recoveries in San Francisco Bay, historically the major wintering area for Canvasbacks in the Pacific Flyway. Adult and juvenile survival decreased by 24% between the 1980s and 1990s. Ruby Lake Canvasbacks exhibited weaker fidelity to wintering sites than Canvasbacks wintering on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Moreover, no major concentrations occurred during fall migration, unlike patterns in eastern North America. Shifts in distribution and survival may correspond to effects of El Nin??o weather on habitat conditions in Nevada and San Francisco Bay, and to major improvements in water delivery and wetland restoration in the Central Valley. Canvasbacks that use widely distributed and variable habitats may be good indicators of the effects of changing climate and water-use practices on waterbirds throughout this arid region.
Additional Publication Details
Winter distribution and survival of a high-desert breeding population of canvasbacks