The continental scaup population (Lesser [Aythya affinis] and Greater [A. marila] combined) has declined markedly since 1978. One hypothesis for the population decline states that reproductive success has decreased because female scaup are arriving on breeding areas in poorer body condition than they did historically (i.e. spring condition hypothesis). We tested one aspect of that hypothesis by comparing body mass and nutrient reserves (lipid, protein, and mineral) of Lesser Scaup at four locations (Louisiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Manitoba) between the 1980s and 2000s. We found that mean body mass and lipid and mineral reserves of females were 80.0, 52.5, and 3.0 g higher, respectively, in the 2000s than in the 1980s in Louisiana; similarly, body mass and lipid and mineral reserves of males were 108.8, 72.5, and 2.5 g higher, respectively. In Illinois, mean body mass and lipid reserves of females were 88.6 and 56.5 g higher, respectively, in the 2000s than in the 1980s; similarly, body mass and lipid and mineral reserves of males were 80.6, 76.0, and 2.7 g higher, respectively. Mean body mass of females were 58.5 and 58.9 g lower in the 2000s than in the 1980s in Minnesota and Manitoba, respectively; mean body mass of males, similarly, were 40.7 g lower in Minnesota. Mean lipid reserves of females in the 2000s were 28.8 and 27.8 g lower than those in the 1980s in Minnesota and Manitoba, respectively. Mean mineral reserves of females in the 2000s were 3.2 g lower than those in the 1980s in Manitoba. Consequently, females arriving to breed in Manitoba in the 2000s had accumulated lipid reserves for 4.1 fewer eggs and mineral reserves for 0.8 fewer eggs than those arriving to breed there in the 1980s. Accordingly, our results are consistent with the spring condition hypothesis and suggest that female body condition has declined, as reflected by decreases in body mass, lipids, and mineral reserves that could cause reductions in reproductive success and ultimately a population decline.
Additional publication details
Nutrient reserves of Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) during spring migration in the Mississippi Flyway: A test of the spring condition hypothesis