, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 61-67
Date: 12 May 2004

Correlates of lifetime reproductive success in three species of European ducks

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Number of breeding attempts is a strong correlate of lifetime reproductive success (LRS) in birds, but the relative importance of potentially interacting factors affecting LRS has rarely been fully evaluated. We considered simultaneously five main factors hypothesized to influence LRS (age at first breeding, nesting date, number of breeding attempts, female traits, brood parasitism) by analyzing with path analysis 22-year data sets for 1,279 individually marked females and their offspring in tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), common pochard (A. ferina) and northern shoveler (Anas clypeata). We recaptured marked offspring as breeding adults (n=496 females) and obtained more complete estimates of LRS by incorporating information about banded ducklings of both sexes shot by hunters ≥12 months after banding (n=138). In tufted ducks and especially pochard (both diving duck species), late-hatched females tended to delay nesting until 2-years old. Most females (tufted duck, 74%; pochard, 71%; shoveler, 59%) apparently produced no breeding-age offspring. Number of breeding attempts (i.e., longevity) was the strongest correlate of LRS in all species, after controlling effects of age at first breeding, relative nest initiation date, wing length and body mass. Percentage of females producing recruits increased gradually with number of breeding attempts for all three species. Also, as expected, females nesting early in the breeding season had higher LRS than late-nesting individuals. In shoveler, female-specific characteristics of relatively longer wings and heavier late incubation body mass had positive effects on LRS, the latter feature being more common in 2-year-old nesters. In diving ducks, no relationships were detected between LRS and female-specific traits like wing length or body mass, and nor did acceptance of parasitic eggs have any deleterious impact on fitness estimates. Overall, number of fledged ducklings and LRS were related in tufted duck, weakly associated in pochard and unrelated in shoveler, implying that fledging success is not always a reliable measure of LRS.