Habitat Selection and Survival of Mallards in the Lake St. Clair region during autumn-winter

Primary Investigator:
Matthew D. Palumbo, PhD Candidate

Dr. Scott A. Petrie, Long Point Waterfowl Executive Director
Dr. Chris G. Guglielmo, Western University
Dr. Michael Schummer, Long Point Waterfowl Scientist


Conservation strategies at Lake St. Clair, Ontario, provide the opportunity to investigate waterfowl movements and foraging strategies related to habitat availability and disturbance (i.e. hunting) during autumn and winter. The Lake St. Clair region of southwest Ontario has experienced significant waterfowl habitat loss from converting wetlands to agricultural fields. The habitat that remains is threatened by additional conversion in addition to stress from invasive species, industrial development (i.e. wind turbine development), and human population growth. Additionally, these wetlands may soon experience more use by waterfowl due to the increasing abundance in waterfowl wintering at more northern locations than in the past.

Despite the threats to the waterfowl habitat and the potential for increased future use, little is known about how waterfowl use the remaining habitat and the impacts on their survival during autumn and winter. Matt’s project will begin to estimate waterfowl use of different habitat types and how this use is influenced by land management practices. Additionally, Matt will categorize different foraging strategies exhibited by the waterfowl to determine if these strategies influence their survival and how long they use the resources within the Lake St. Clair region.

As a model species Matt will be studying female adult Mallards. Harvest information supports that Great Lakes Mallards need to be managed separate from Mid-continent Mallards because they are subject to different environmental conditions, habitat metrics, and population drivers. Also, research suggests that the Great Lakes Mallard population may be sensitive to non-breeding season survival.

Matt will capture and equip adult female Mallards with Global Positioning Satellite backpack transmitters. This technology will provide accurate locations of both day and night use of different habitats; allows Matt to estimate survival of each duck during the autumn and winter; and allows for an accurate assessment of when individuals leave the Lake St. Clair region.

Assessing which habitats are used by female Mallards and when they are most often utilized can provide area managers with important information on how to best manage the remaining waterfowl habitat. Additionally, identifying influences to survival could be very useful for conservation managers if they deem that Mallard survival during the nonbreeding season needs to increase to manage the Great Lakes population of these ducks.


Project Sponsors

California Waterfowlers Association
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Molson Foundation
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
SC Johnson
TD Friends of the Environment
Wildlife Habitat Canada
Wildlife Research Foundation
Winous Point Marsh Conservancy

Comments are closed.