Landscape features influence distribution of waterbirds throughout their annual cycle. A conceptual model, the wetland habitat complex, may be useful in conservation of wetland habitats for dabbling ducks (Anatini). The foundation of this conceptual model is that ducks seek complexes of wetlands containing diverse resources to meet dynamic physiological needs. We included flooded croplands, wetlands and ponds, public-land waterfowl sanctuary, and diversity of habitats as key components of wetland habitat complexes and compared their relative influence at two spatial scales (i.e., local, 0.25-km radius; landscape, 4-km) on dabbling ducks wintering in western Mississippi, USA during winters 2002–2004. Distribution of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) groups was positively associated with flooded cropland at local and landscape scales. Models representing flooded croplands at the landscape scale best explained occurrence of other dabbling ducks. Habitat complexity measured at both scales best explained group size of other dabbling ducks. Flooded croplands likely provided food that had decreased in availability due to conversion of wetlands to agriculture. Wetland complexes at landscape scales were more attractive to wintering ducks than single or structurally simple wetlands. Conservation of wetland complexes at large spatial scales (≥5,000 ha) on public and private lands will require coordination among multiple stakeholders.
Additional publication details
Local and landscape associations between wintering dabbling ducks and wetland complexes in Mississippi