We monitored evening flights of female Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) from Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southwestern Louisiana during winters of 1991-1992 and 1992-1993. We analyzed the influence of female age, winter, and date within wintering period on three flight parameters: distance, duration, and departure time. Flight distance and duration increased with date within wintering period, and age differences in flight distance and duration were not consistent between winters. Females departed 12 min later, on average, on clear, moonlit evenings than on overcast, moonless evenings, and 4 min later when winds were light rather than heavy. After controlling for variation due to environmental conditions, immature females departed Lacassine NWR 1.3 min earlier, on average, than did adults. Flight parameters of females did not differ between hunting and non-hunting time periods. Estimated daily transit costs ranged from 27-54% of basal metabolic rate, 7-19% of daily energy expenditure, and 8-20% of daily dietary intake of rice (Oryza sativa). Our findings that flight distance and duration increased with date within wintering period were consistent with predictions of refuging theory, but alternative hypotheses also could explain these results. Evening flights of Northern Pintails roosting on Lacassine NWR were greater in distance and duration than those reported for most other species of wintering waterfowl. We recommend that proximity of refuges to feeding sites be considered in conservation and management plans for wintering Northern Pintails and other refuging waterfowl.
Additional publication details
Evening flights of female northern pintails from a major roost site