Habitat provides food and shelter resources for prefledgling waterfowl and thus plays a critical role in their growth, development, and survival. However, few studies have examined whether and how particular elements of habitat affect duckling survival. We investigated relationships of duckling survival rates with distance of overland travel, wetland vegetation composition, water permanency, and surrounding upland vegetation for 116 mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) broods in the Great Lakes region from 2001 to 2003. We found that the probability, on hatch day, that a mallard duckling will survive to 55 days was positively related to the proportion of wetland area that was vegetated and negatively related to the proportion of forest cover within 500 m of duckling locations. We found little support for relationships between duckling survival rates and the proportions of grasslands or seasonal wetlands or to distances traveled overland by broods. Our results suggest that conservation groups and wildlife managers in the Great Lakes region can improve mallard duckling survival rates by managing for, creating, and protecting vegetated wetlands and focusing efforts within lightly-forested areas.
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Vol. 71 • No. 6