The nesting behavior of a concentration of nesting mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and gadwalls (A. strepera) was studied on a 4.5-ha island in Miller Lake, North Dakota, in 1977. A single 0.59-ha clump of thick shrub contained 225 simultaneously active mallard nests on 10 May. During the peak nesting period, mallard nests were spaced an average of 2.7 m from conspecifics. Active nests of all species peaked at 327, spaced an average of 2.1 m apart. Nests were clustered in thick shrub with moderate numbers in open shrub and few in grassland. Nest placement was significantly related to the amount of vegetative screening although mammalian predators were absent on the island. Cover density appeared to be important to the nesting hens as vegetation screened nests from potential avian predators and from harassment by other conspecific nesting hens and drakes. Mallards and gadwalls nesting on this island used wetlands in >100 km2 around Miller Lake. During daylight hours in late April 1978, an average of 4.9 mallards/minute arrived at the island; a peak of 17.2 mallards/minute arrived at 0800. In late April 1978, as many as 26 mallard pairs/ha occurred on favored wetlands and behavioral aggression was intense. Yet, most mallard hens maintained adequate space to acquire food and other requisites. Mallards and gadwalls were sufficiently adaptable to successfully exploit the Miller Lake island and environments that resulted in high reproductive success. Other local breeding Anatidae because of behavioral constraints were unable to exploit the same situation.
Additional publication details
Nest spacing, habitat selection, and behavior of waterfowl on Miller Lake Island, North Dakota