Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) may winter in northern areas if they have access to adequate food and open water. We compared individual body size (indexed by first principal component scores from three morphometric measurements) and body condition (body mass adjusted for body size) of male Mallard wintering in North Dakota, USA during 1996-99 with a baseline reference group of Mallard from Ontario, Canada measured during late summer. Size and condition of Mallard wintering in North Dakota was also compared, using a sample from a traditional wintering area in Arkansas, USA. Male Mallard body size and condition in North Dakota relative to weather severity during mid-winter was assessed. Body size of adult males in North Dakota was significantly greater than that of birds from Ontario, but similar to those from Arkansas. Adult males remaining in North Dakota during the coldest winter were not larger than those remaining in North Dakota during milder winters. Immature males in North Dakota were significantly smaller than those from Arkansas, and the former were not larger during the coldest winter. Body condition of adult males in North Dakota was greater than that of those from Ontario and Arkansas and mean body mass of adult males in North Dakota during winter was greater than that of those wintering elsewhere. Further, adult males in North Dakota were in the best condition during the coldest winter. Mean body condition of immature males in North Dakota was similar to that of those from Arkansas. Body mass of immatures in North Dakota was similar to that of immatures wintering elsewhere. These findings indicate that maintenance of high fat reserves, not large body size, is the primary factor allowing adult males to winter in the extremely cold conditions of North Dakota. The small size of immature males in North Dakota, combined with the lack of evidence of their superior condition as compared to those wintering elsewhere, suggests that immatures wintering in North Dakota are mainly late-hatched individuals that may not have been able to store sufficient fat reserves to migrate before freeze-up.
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Vol. 26 • No. 4