Biologists have proposed several environmental factors that might influence production of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) nesting in the prairie-parkland region of the United States and Canada. These factors include precipitation, cold spring temperatures, wetland abundance, and upland breeding habitat. I used long-term historical data sets of climate, wetland numbers, agricultural land use, and size of breeding mallard populations in multiple regression analyses to model annual indices of mallard production. Models were constructed at 2 scales: a continental scale that encompassed most of the mid-continental breeding range of mallards and a stratum-level scale that included 23 portions of that same breeding range. The production index at the continental scale was the estimated age ratio of mid-continental mallards in early fall; at the stratum scale my production index was the estimated number of broods of all duck species within an aerial survey stratum. Size of breeding mallard populations in May, and pond numbers in May and July, best modeled production at the continental scale. Variables that best modeled production at the stratum scale differed by region. Crop variables tended to appear more in models for western Canadian strata; pond variables predominated in models for United States strata; and spring temperature and pond variables dominated models for eastern Canadian strata. An index of cold spring temperatures appeared in 4 of 6 models for aspen parkland strata, and in only 1 of 11 models for strata dominated by prairie. Stratum-level models suggest that regional factors influencing mallard production are not evident at a larger scale. Testing these potential factors in a manipulative fashion would improve our understanding of mallard population dynamics, improving our ability to manage the mid-continental mallard population.
Additional publication details
Modeling annual mallard production in the prairie-parkland region