The relationship between body mass and survival of wintering canvasbacks

The Auk
By: , and 



Mass and recapture histories of 6,000 Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) banded in upper Chesapeake Bay were used to test two hypotheses: (1) early-winter body mass is associated with the probability of surviving the winter, and (2) early-winter body mass is associated with annual survival probability. Data were analyzed by a binary regression method that treated mass as a continuous variable and estimated parameters to describe a general relationship between body mass and survival probability. Results for adult males, which provided our largest data sets, presented strong evidence that birds with high relative early-winter masses had both greater overwinter and annual survival probabilities. Results of overwinter analyses necessarily are qualified by the alternative explanation of mass-dependent emigration, i.e. the possibility that lighter birds move south in response to cold weather and leave only heavy birds for recapture. Such a phenomenon remains to be documented. Results concerning annual survival probabilities are not vulnerable to this alternative explanation because of the strong fidelity of Canvasbacks at the banding site. Because of small sample size, data were inadequate to permit mass/survival inferences for adult females. Sample sizes were adequate for young Canvasbacks, but the results were less consistent than for adult males. Although early-winter body mass was associated positively with overwinter as well as annual survival for young Canvasbacks in some years, we suspect that the lack of established wintering patterns among these birds may underlie the less consistent result.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The relationship between body mass and survival of wintering canvasbacks
Series title The Auk
Volume 103
Issue 3
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher American Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 506
Last page 514