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F.4-4: Municipal mallards: Movement ecology and harvest of urban ducks

Presented by Ben O'Neal - Email: BONEAL@FRANKLINCOLLEGE.EDU

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) have long been recognized for their importance to wetland ecology and hunting. In general, our management and conservation models for this important species have focused on traditional population segments such as those in the Prairie Pothole and Great Lakes Regions. Many of these traditional nesting regions face mounting pressure from land conversion, while more developed regions of the Midwest are experiencing increases in aquatic habitats, particularly in developed landscapes. Mallards have shown an affinity for these human-dominated landscapes; however, little attention has been given to these urban population segments in terms of research or management. During summers 2015-2018, we banded 2,238 mallards within the developed landscapes of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and greater Indianapolis, Indiana. To date, we have had 178 hunter-harvested band returns (8.0% recovery rate). In terms of distance travelled, 53% were harvested locally (<10 km), 30% regionally (10-100 km), and 17% at greater than 100 km (overall mean = 81 km; median = 8 km). Birds traveled in every direction and showed no significant directional affinity (Rayleighs Z = 2.04; p = 0.13); however, 56% of movements > 10 km in distance were in a direction with some northerly component. Our study birds were encountered in diverse habitat types (e.g., dry fields, wet fields, marshes, and ponds; public and private). They contributed to harvest in nine states and three provinces. Our results indicate that mallards inhabiting urban landscapes during the summer do, in fact, move outside of their human-dominated environments during the autumn and winter months. In addition, our findings also indicate that urban mallards are spending time in huntable areas and contributing to harvest at meaningful levels both locally and more broadly.
Session: Harvest (Wednesday, August 28, 15:30 to 16:50)