We studied nutrient-reserve dynamics of female Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) to quantify intraspecific strategies of nutrient acquisition for egg production, particularly in relation to the seasonal timing of reproduction (i.e., date of initiation of rapid follicle growth [RFG]). We collected female Greater Scaup on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, from arrival through clutch formation during the 2002 and 2003 breeding seasons, and we subsequently conducted standard proximate body-composition analysis. Endogenous lipid, protein, and mineral reserve levels did not decline during egg production. This result differs from most other nutrient-reserve studies of waterfowl, suggesting that female Greater Scaup rely on exogenous food resources, rather than endogenous nutrient reserves, to meet the energy and nutrient costs of clutch formation. Furthermore, endogenous nutrient-reserve levels did not decline with date of RFG initiation, which indicates that body condition at initiation of egg production was similar across the nesting season. We found evidence of nutrient-reserve thresholds for initiation of RFG, in that lipid, protein, and mineral reserves were smaller in nonreproductive than in reproductive females. In light of recent conservation concerns over declining North American scaup populations, our data contrast with nutrient-reserve dynamics described for Lesser Scaup (A. affinis).
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Vol. 125 • No. 2