Identification and assessment of the relative importance of factors affecting duckling growth and survival are essential for effective management of mallards on breeding areas. For each of 3 years (1993-95), we placed F1-generation wild mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) females on experimental wetlands and allowed them to mate, nest, and rear broods for 17 days. We manipulated invertebrate densities by introducing fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) at high densities in half of the wetlands on which broods were confined. Day-17 body mass of surviving ducklings (n = 183) was greater for ducklings that were heavier at hatch; the difference averaged 1.7 g at day 17 for each 1.0 g at hatch (P = 0.047). Growth ratio (the proportion of body mass attained by ducklings when they were last measured relative to that predicted for wild female mallard ducklings) also was positively related to body mass at hatch (P = 0.004). Mean day-17 body mass and mean growth ratio of ducklings per brood (each adjusted for body mass at hatch) were positively related to numbers of aquatic invertebrates (Ps < 0.001) and negatively related to variance in the daily minimum air temperature during the exposure period (Ps < 0.020). Early growth of mallards was more sensitive to variation in numbers of invertebrates than to air temperature or biomass of invertebrates. Duckling survival was positively related to growth ratio (P < 0.001). Our study provides parameter estimates that are essential for modeling growth and survival of mallard ducklings. We emphasize the need for conserving brood-rearing wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region that are capable of supporting high densities of aquatic invertebrates.
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Mallard duckling growth and survival in relation to aquatic invertebrates