We used microprocessor data loggers to document patterns of nest attendance during the laying stage and to quantify temperatures of dummy eggs during laying for Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Blue-winged Teal (A. discors), Northern Shoveler (A. clypeata), Northern Pintail (A. acuta), Gadwall (A. strepera), Green-winged Teal (A. crecca), American Wigeon (A. americana), and Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) nesting in southern Manitoba in 1994 and in northeastern North Dakota in 1995–1997 and 2000–2002. Females of all species increased the time they spent on the nest as laying progressed, but species differed in their pattern of increased attendance. Female Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler that laid smaller clutches increased the time they spent on the nest more rapidly than conspecifics that laid larger clutches, but large- and small-clutch conspecifics had similar attendance at the end of the laying period. Attendance during laying was not influenced by low ambient temperature, precipitation, or nest initiation date. For all species combined, maximum egg temperatures increased as laying progressed. Eggs were heated to temperatures sufficient for embryonic development as early as the day that the second egg was laid. Our findings contradict the prevailing paradigm that incubation in waterfowl begins after clutch completion and raise questions about how hatching synchrony is achieved. We relate our findings to two hypotheses (nutrient limitation and viability–predation) that have been proposed to explain the limits to clutch size in ducks.
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Vol. 121 • No. 2