Stopover Ecology of Mallards Where, when and how to do what?
Sammanfattning: The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is the most numerous and widespread duck in the northern hemisphere and a model species in ecology and harvest management. Migration is a crucial life stage for many birds and understanding the drivers of migration has important implications for conservation biology and assessment of animal population responses to global changes. Furthermore, mallard migration is a fundamental determinant of the epidemiology of many diseases of major relevance for both animal and human health. For example, it is the reservoir host for influenza A viruses (IAV), a widespread zoonosis causing mortality and economic damage. Improved knowledge of mallard behaviour during migration and the impacts of infection in mallards is needed to determine the role of wild birds in global IAV dynamics.This thesis focuses on mallard stopover ecology, an explicitly important part of the annual life cycle that is not well understood. The study area was southern Öland, SE Sweden, where mallard stopover behaviour was scrutinized by a combination of telemetry and ringing data analyses. Specifically, habitat preferences, movements, and emigration decisions were studied in-depth. Potential effects of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAIV) infection on movement parameters were also investigated. Radio-tracking revealed that stopover mallards adhered to a strict diel pattern, in which they spent the days resting along the coast, visited crop fields at dawn and dusk, and foraged on inland water bodies during the darkest night hours. Notably, the importance of residual maize, as well as small ephemeral wetlands on the unique alvar steppe habitat that predominates on Öland, was previously unknown. LPAIV infection status did not affect movement behaviour, highlighting the possible risk of spread of IAV from wild mallards to poultry along the migratory flyway. Through capture-mark-recapture modelling, it was confirmed that weather, particularly wind direction, was the most important determinant of departure from the stopover site. In contrast, the body condition of departing mallards was less crucial. Taken together, the research presented in this thesis contributes to improved knowledge about mallard stopover ecology and its role in LPAIV disease dynamics.
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