Low food availability and forage quality and concomitant decreased lipid reserves of lesser scaup (Aythya affinis; hereafter scaup) during spring migration in the upper Midwest may partially explain reductions in the continental population of scaup. In springs 2004–2005, we examined wetland use and feeding activity of scaup on 356 randomly-selected wetlands within 6 regions in Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota. We examined wetland characteristics that favor high scaup use in 286 of these wetlands. We found that probabilities of wetland use and feeding by scaup increased with turbidity up to 45 and 30 NTU, respectively, but then declined at higher turbidity levels. Wetland use was positively correlated with size of open-water zone and amphipod densities, but was not correlated with chironomid densities. Feeding increased with amphipod density up to 26 m−3 and then declined at higher amphipod densities; scaup seemingly forage most efficiently at amphipod densities above 26 m−3. Wetland use was higher in North Dakota than in southern Minnesota and Iowa. Our results indicate that effective wetland restoration efforts to benefit scaup require maintaining abundant populations of amphipods (generally near 26 m−3 landscape geometric mean) in wetlands with large (> 500 m diameter) open-water zones throughout the upper Midwest, but especially within Iowa and southern Minnesota.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2