Habitat Selection and Survival of American Black Ducks in Western Tennessee

The American black duck (Anas rubripes) has been declining throughout its range since the 1950s, especially in the Mississippi Flyway. Loss of quality wintering habitat and competition and hybridization with mallards (A. platyrhynchos) have been suggested as factors contributing to black duck decline. Tennessee and Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) are two primary wintering areas for midcontinent black ducks recording long-term population declines. To better understand habitat selection and habitat-related survival of black ducks at Tennessee NWR (TNWR), we radio marked 64 female black ducks with harness-type, VHF transmitters on the Duck River Unit (DRU) of TNWR in winter 2010-2011. From December-March 2010-2011, we located radio marked ducks 1345 times on the DRU: moist soil (44.7%), open water (33.5%), forested/scrub-shrub (14.0%), agriculture (6.5%), and other (1.2%) habitats. Radio marked females were most frequently located in open water (41.7%) diurnally and moist soil (59.2%) nocturnally. We detected nine mortalities and suspected avian predation in most cases. All radio marked black ducks departed the DRU and surrounding areas by 18 March 2011. Data analyses on home ranges, habitat selection, and habitat-related survival are ongoing. We will continue and expand the existing project by simultaneously studying concomitant habitat selection of radio marked female mallards and black ducks at TNWR in winter 2011-2012.

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