Waterbirds breeding on the Mongolian Plateau in Central Asia must find suitable wetland areas for nesting in a semiarid region characterized by highly variable water conditions. The first systematic nesting study of a waterbird dependent on this region for breeding was conducted on the Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus). The purpose of this study was to document Bar-headed Goose nesting locations, characterize nests and nesting strategies, and estimate daily nest survival (n = 235 nests) from eight areas of west-central Mongolia across three summers (2009–2011) using a modified Mayfield estimator. Bar-headed Goose daily nest survival ranged from 0.94 to 0.98, with a 3-year average nest success of 42.6% during incubation. Bar-headed Geese were found to primarily nest on isolated pond and lake islands as previously reported, but were also documented regularly, though less frequently, along rocky cliffs in several regions of west-central Mongolia. Daily nest survival was higher for cliff nests than for island nests. Information-theoretic models indicated that nest survival decreased with nest age and varied annually with changing environmental conditions. Results of this study suggest that while Bar-headed Geese primarily rely on nesting island sites these sites may be more susceptible to anthropogenic disturbance and predation events influenced by seasonal variation in environmental conditions, and that higher daily nest survival values documented for the less frequent cliff nest strategy may provide an important alternative strategy during poor island nest success years. Thus, conservation efforts for this and other waterbird species in the semiarid region should be focused on conserving nesting islands and protecting them from disturbance in areas of high livestock densities experiencing a rapidly warming climate.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4