The correlation between number of May ponds in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America and size of the continental mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) breeding population the following spring weakened from the 1950s to the 1980s, suggesting possible changes in suitability of prairie ponds for meeting reproductive needs. We studied wetland use and preferences of radioequipped female mallards by reproductive stage (1988-90) in eastern North Dakota and westcentral Minnesota and evaluated effect of land use on pair distribution in eastern North Dakota (1987-91). May pond density varied among years and study areas, with changes in number of temporary and seasonal ponds accounting for 93% of variation in total ponds. During all reproductive stages, semipermanent basins were used most by females, but temporary and seasonal ponds were preferred during prenesting and egg production. Accounting for number of relocations, number of ponds used varied by year, by reproductive stage and with pond density during egg production. Numbers of breeding mallard pairs in stratum 46 in eastern North Dakota increased as May ponds increased from 1963 to 1985, but 33,659 fewer breeding pairs on average were present in 1971-85 than in 1963-70. Number of breeding pairs declined relative to May ponds from the 1960s to the 1980s, probably because fewer pairs settle in temporary and seasonal ponds as the percent of landscape in cropland increases. Waterfowl managers in the PPR should target efforts to increase duck production on landscapes where non-cropped temporarily and seasonally flooded wetland habitats are plentiful, thereby increasing cost effectiveness of management actions taken to increase nest success rate.
Additional publication details
Wetland use, settling patterns, and recruitment in mallards