We contrasted the estimated age class of recaptured Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) (n = 255) based on bursal depth with expected age class based on bursal depth at first capture and time since first capture. Although neither estimated nor expected ages can be assumed to be correct, rates of discrepancies between the two for within-year recaptures indicate sampling error, while between-year recaptures test assumptions about rates of bursal involution. Within-year, between-year, and overall discrepancy rates were 10%, 24%, and 18%, respectively. Most (86%) between-year discrepancies occurred for birds expected to be after-third-year (ATY) but estimated to be third-year (TY). Of these ATY-TY discrepancies, 22 of 25 (88%) birds had bursal depths of 2 or 3 mm. Further, five of six between-year recaptures that were known to be ATY but estimated to be TY had 2 mm bursas. Reclassifying birds with 2 or 3 mm bursas as ATY resulted in reduction in between-year (24% to 10%) and overall (18% to 11%) discrepancy rates. We conclude that age determination of Harlequin Ducks based on bursal depth, particularly using our modified criteria, is a relatively consistent and reliable technique.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of bursal depth as an indicator of age class of harlequin ducks