Female wood ducks (Aix sponsa) feed primarily on plant foods in the prelaying period and switch to a diet of mostly invertebrates during egg production. If nutrient acquisition is habitat-specific, then selection and use of habitats may differ between these reproductive stages. A better understanding of these processes is needed to assist future habitat conservation and management efforts. In January-May 1999 and 2000, we monitored movements and habitat use of radiomarked females (n = 47) during the prelaying and egg-production periods of first nests. Home-range size averaged 367 ha and did not vary with reproductive period, year, or female age. Habitat use did not differ between periods of prelaying and egg production; consequently, data were combined. Habitat use varied between years, female age, and periods of nest initiation (i.e., early vs. late). Use of beaver ponds (BP), temporary wetlands (TW), managed impoundments (MI), and lake habitats (LK) declined in 2000 compared to 1999, possibly due to reduced precipitation. Nest initiation date was independent of female age. Adult females used BP more than yearlings, and early-nesting females used BP and MI more than late-nesting females. Females selected habitats nonrandomly when habitat composition of the study area was compared to that of home ranges (second-order selection). Lake-influenced wetlands (LI) and MI were ranked highest in preference. Home-range size was inversely related to percentage of the home range comprised of MI and LI, supporting the idea that MI and LI were high-quality habitats. However, we found no relationship between nest initiation date (an important index to reproductive performance) and the combined area of MI and LI in home ranges. Habitai selection did not differ from random when habitat composition of home ranges was compared to that of radio locations (third-order selection). Although MI and LI were preferred, high-quality habitats, our results suggest that breeding female wood ducks can satisfy requirements for egg production using a variety of wetland habitats. We suggest that providing a diversity of habitat types will increase the probability of meeting needs of breeding females throughout the breeding season, especially in areas where wetland conditions frequently change.
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Habitat use and preferences of breeding female wood ducks