Factors influencing initiation of regional and interregional movements by nonbreeding ducks are poorly understood, especially during winter. During winters 1990-1991 through 1992-1993, we radiotagged 347 female Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) in southwestern Louisiana and monitored their movements to three regions: (1) the Gulf Coast Region of Louisiana and Texas (outside of southwestern Louisiana), (2) the Rice Prairie Region of Texas, and (3) the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. We found that adult females were 1.9 times more likely than were immatures to emigrate from southwestern Louisiana during winter. During winters 1990-1991 and 1991-1992, females were more likely to emigrate during stormy than during fair weather, whereas they were more likely to emigrate during fair weather in 1992-1993. Females were more likely to emigrate during duck-hunting seasons than during nonhunting seasons, regardless of weather. Daily emigration probabilities did not differ in relation to body condition when released (body mass adjusted for body size) or to number of previous emigration events. Each winter, large numbers of females consistently moved from the Gulf Coast Region to areas with abundant rice (Oryza sativa) agriculture within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. We conclude that destination of interregional movements by this population of Northern Pintails is highly predictable, and that initiation of such movements is influenced by female age and long-term winter precipitation patterns in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Furthermore, timing of these movements is predictable, based not on calendar date, but rather on duck-hunting seasons and, usually, the environmental cues to habitat availability provided by stormy weather.
Additional publication details
Predictable interregional movements by female northern pintails during winter