Recovery (i.e., shot, retrieved, and reported) rates and daily mortality risk of 52,330 adult Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) leg-banded during pre-molt, in-molt, or post-molt during 1985–2011 were evaluated to better understand mortality during wing molt in dynamics of the Mallard population in California, USA. Recovery rates and non-hunting mortality risk varied by molt status at time of banding and California region where banded. Mallards banded during post-molt were 1.22 (95% credible interval = 1.10–1.32) times more likely to be recovered than Mallards banded pre-molt; recovery probability was similar for pre-molt and in-molt Mallards. Mallards banded post-molt had 0.43 (0.17–0.98) and in-molt 0.87 (0.51–1.49) times the daily risk of non-hunting mortality as Mallards banded pre-molt. Mallards were 0.92 (0.86–0.98) times as likely to be recovered, and daily risk of non-hunting mortality was 2.93 (1.79–4.94) times greater, if banded in Northeastern California than in California's Central Valley. Results indicate that high mortality during the molt period, especially in Northeastern California where most Mallards that breed in California molt, might be negatively affecting recovery (and potentially annual survival) of Mallards in California. Thus, conservation programs that reduce mortality during molt could help attain the desired population size for Mallards nesting in California.
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