, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 100–114 | Cite as

Spatial and diel availability of flying insects as potential duckling food in prairie wetlands

  • Ryan S. King
  • Dale A. Wrubleski


We examined spatial and diel availability of flying insects that are a critical food resource to young ducklings. We sampled insects in three native prairie wetlands on the Woodworth Study Area of south-central North Dakota. Insects were sampled with floating sticky traps within emergent macrophyte, edge, and open water microhabitat zones. Sampling took place from 12 June to 4 July 1995, a period that coincided with peak dabbling duck (Anas spp.) hatching in this region. Our sticky trans collected 28,527 insects and spiders totaling at least 32 families and 150 species. Chironomidae (Diptera) was the most abundant group, constituting 60% of the total insect count and 32.9% of the biomass (mg dry weight). Mixed-model ANOVA showed that a population of similar undisturbed wetlands may show differences in insect availability when considering both time and space, primarily due to differences in community structure among sites. In spite of these significant random effects, interactions between or among the fixed date, zone, and trap-height effects significantly influenced insect availability. Insects stratified near the water surface in open water areas on all dates except during cool, rainy weather (28 June); on this date, insects were virtually absent from open water. Vertical stratification of insects was less prevalent within and at the edge of stands of emergent vegetation, although most insects were present in the emergent zone near the water surface during inclement weather. ANOVA models from our diel study showed that a significant diel pattern in insect availability existed among zones, but this interaction also depended upon trap-height (chironomid biomass) or date (chironomid counts and biomass). Generally, more insect numbers and biomass were captured in and along stands of emergent macrophytes during the day but chiefly in open water near the surface at night. This diel-zone effect was especially apparent for large chironomids, which were essentially absent during daylight but abundant in open water and edge zones during night. Daytime chironomids were small and predominantly trapped in stands of emergent vegetation. Our results are consistent with previously documented brood foraging behavior and may indicate a trade-off between low energy foraging in the open at night and potentially safer but less productive foraging in stands of emergent vegetation during the day.

Key Words

Chironomidae dabbling duck ducklings food availability insects North Dakota prairie wetlands sticky trap waterfowl management Woodworth Study Area 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Bélanger, L. and R. Couture. 1988. Use of man-made ponds by dabbling duck broods. Journal of Wildlife Management 52:718–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennington, C.C. and W.V. Thayne. 1994. Use and misuse of mixed model analysis of variance in ecological studies. Ecology 75:717–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chura, N.J. 1961. Food availability and preferences of juvenile mallards. Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference 26:121–134.Google Scholar
  4. Cleveland, W.S. 1993. Visualizing Data. Hobart Press, Summit, NJ, USA.Google Scholar
  5. Collias, N.E. and E.C. Collias. 1963. Selective feeding by wild ducklings of different species. Wilson Bulletin 75:6–14.Google Scholar
  6. Cooper, C.B. and S.H. Anderson. 1996. Significance of invertebrate abundance to dabbling duck brood use of created wetlands. Wetlands 16:557–563.Google Scholar
  7. Cox, R.R. and J.A. Kadlec. 1995. Dynamics of potential waterfowl foods in Great Salt Lake marshes during summer. Wetlands 15:1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crow, J.H. and K.B. McDonald. 1978. Wetland values: secondary production. p. 146–161.In P.E. Greeson, J.R. Clark, and J.E. Clark (eds.) Wetland Functions and Values. American Water Resources Association, Minneapolis, MN, USA.Google Scholar
  9. Danell, K. and K. Sjöberg. 1977. Seasonal emergence of chironomids in relation to egglaying and hatching of ducks in a restored lake (northern Sweden). Wildfowl 28:129–135.Google Scholar
  10. Driver, E.A. 1977. Chronomid communities in small prairie ponds: some characteristics and controls. Freshwater Biology 7:121–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gleason, R.A. and N.H. Euliss. 1996. Impact of agricultural landuse on prairie wetland ecosystems: experimental design and overview. Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science 50: 103–107.Google Scholar
  12. Higgins, K.F., L.M. Kirsch, A.T. Klett, and H.W. Miller. 1992. Waterfowl production on the Woodworth Station in south-central North Dakota, 1965–1981. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, USA. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Resource Publication 180.Google Scholar
  13. Hunter, Jr., M.L., J.W. Witham, and H. Dow. 1984. Effects of carbaryl-induced depression in invertebrate abundance on growth and behavior of American black duck and mallard ducklings. Canadian Journal of Zoology 62:452–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jacobsen, O.W. 1991. Feeding behavior of breeding wigeonAnas penelope in relation to seasonal emergence and swarming behaviour of chironomids. Ardea 79:409–418.Google Scholar
  15. Jennrich, R.I. and M.D. Schluchter. 1986. Unbalanced repeated-measures models with structured covariance matrices. Biometrics 42: 805–820.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson, D.H., K.F. Higgins, and R.O. Woodward. 1996. An introduction to the Woodworth Study Area. Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science 50:95–102.Google Scholar
  17. Krapu, G.L. and C.R. Luna. 1991. Habitat use, survival, and causes of mortality among mallard broods hatched near the James River in North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist 23:213–222.Google Scholar
  18. Krapu, G.L. and K.J. Reinecke. 1992. Foraging ecology and nutrition. p. 1–29.In B.D.J. Batt, A.D. Afton, M.G. Anderson, C.D. Ankeny, D.H. Johnson, J.A. Kadlec, and G.L. Krapu (eds.) Ecology and Management of Breeding Waterfowl. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, USA.Google Scholar
  19. Krull, J.N. 1970. Acuatic plant-macroinvertebrate associations and waterfowl. Journal of Wildlife Management 34:707–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mathsoft, Inc. 1995. S-PLUS Trellis Graphics User’s Manual, Version 3.3. Mathsoft, Inc., Seattle, WA, USA.Google Scholar
  21. Mauser, D.M., R.L. Jarvis, and D.S. Gilmer. 1994. Movements and habitat use of mallard broods in northeastern California. Journal of Wildlife Management 58:88–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McNeil, R., P. Drapeau, and J.D. Goss-Custard. 1992. The occurrence and adaptive significance of nocturnal habits in waterfowl. Biological Review 67:381–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Murkin, H.R. and B.D.J. Batt. 1987. The interactions of vertebrates and invertebrates in peatlands and marshes. p. 15–30.In D.M. Rosenberg and H.V. Danks (eds.) Aquatic Insects of Peatlands and Marshes in Canada. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 140.Google Scholar
  24. Murkin, H. R. and J.A. Kadlec. 1986. Responses by benthic macroinvertebrates to prolonged flooding of marsh habitat. Canadian Journal of Zoology 64:65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Murkin, H.R., D.A. Wrubleski, and F.A. Reid. 1994. Sampling invertebrates in aquatic and terrestrial habitats. p. 349–369.In T.A. Bookhout (ed.) Research and Management Techniques for Wildlife and Habitats. The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, MD, USA.Google Scholar
  26. Nelson, R.D. 1989. Seasonal abundance and life cycles of chironomids (Diptera: Chironomidae) in four prairie wetlands. Ph.D. Dissertation, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA.Google Scholar
  27. Pehrsson, O. 1979. Feeding behaviour, feeding habitat utilization, and feeding efficiency of mallard ducklings (Anas platyrhynchos L.) as guided by a domestic duck. Viltrevy 10:193–218.Google Scholar
  28. Pehrsson, O. and K.G.K. Nyström. 1988. Growth and movements of oldsquaw ducklings in relation to food. Journal of Wildlife Management 52:185–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rice, J.A. 1988. Mathematics, Statistics, and Data Analysis. Wadsworth Brooks, Belmont, CA, USA.Google Scholar
  30. Sage, R.D. 1982. Wet and dry-weight estimates of insects and spiders based on length. American Midland Naturalist 108:407–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sample, B.E., R.J. Cooper, R.D. Greer, and R.C. Whitmore. 1993. Estimation of insect biomass by length and width. American Midland Naturalist 129:234–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. SAS Institute Inc. 1997. SAS/STAT Software: Changes and Enhancements through Release 6.12. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA.Google Scholar
  33. Sedinger, J.S. 1992. Ecology of prefledging waterfowl. p. 109–127.In B.D.J. Batt, A.D. Afton, M.G. Anderson, C.D. Ankney, D.H. Johnson, J.A. Kadlec, and G.L. Krapu (eds.) Ecology and Management of Breeding Waterfowl. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, USA.Google Scholar
  34. Sjöberg, K. and K. Danell. 1982. Feeding activity of ducks in relation to diel emergence of chironomids. Canadian Journal of Zoology 60:1383–1387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stewart, R.E. and H.A. Kantrud. 1971. Classification of natural pond and lakes in the glaciated prairie region. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, USA. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Resource Publication 92.Google Scholar
  36. Stewart, R.E. and H.A. Kantrud. 1973. Ecological distribution of breeding waterfowl in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management 37:30–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Street, M. 1977. The food of mallard ducklings in a wet gravel quarry, and its relation to duckling survival. Wildfowl 28:113–125.Google Scholar
  38. Sugden, I.G. 1973. Feeding ecology of pintail, gadwall, American widgeon and lesser scaup ducklings in southern Alberta. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Report Series No. 24.Google Scholar
  39. Swanson, G.A. 1977. Diel food selection by Anatinae on a wastestabilization system. Journal of Wildlife Management 41:226–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Swanson, G.A. and H.E. Duebbert. 1989. Wetland habitats of waterfowl in the prairie pothole region. p. 229–267.In A.G. van der Valk (ed.) Northern Prairie Wetlands. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA, USA.Google Scholar
  41. Swanson, G.A. and A.B. Sargeant. 1972. Observation of nighttime feeding behavior of ducks. Journal of Wildlife Management 36: 959–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Talent, L.G., G.L. Krapu, and R.L. Jarvis. 1982. Habitat use by mallard broods in south-central North Dakota. Journal of Wildlife Management 46:629–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Titmus, G. 1979. Distribution and behaviour of adult Chironomidae (Dipt.).Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 115:145–148.Google Scholar
  44. Todd, J.L. and B.A. Foote. 1987. Spatial and temporal distribution of shore flies in a freshwater marsh (Diptera: Ephydridae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 89:448–457.Google Scholar
  45. Voigts, D.K. 1976. Aquatic invertebrate abundance in relation to changing marsh vegetation. American Midland Naturalist 95:313–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weller, M.W.. 1978. Wetland habitats. p. 210–234.In P.E. Greeson, J.R. Clark, and J.E. Clark (eds.) Wetland Functions and Values. American Water Resources Association, Minneapolis, MN, USA.Google Scholar
  47. Whitman, W.R. 1974. The response of macro-invertebrates to experimental marsh management. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA.Google Scholar
  48. Wiederholm, T., K. Danell, and K. Sjöberg. 1977. Emergence of chironomids from a small man-made lake in northern Sweden. Norwegian Journal of Entomology 24:99–105.Google Scholar
  49. Williams, C.B.. 1961. Studies in the effect of weather conditions on the activity and abundance of insect populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 244:331–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wrubleski, D.A. and L.C.M. Ross. 1989. Diel periodicities of adult emergence of Chironomidae and Trichoptera from the Delta Marsh, Manitoba, Canada. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 5:163–169.Google Scholar
  51. Wrubleski, D.A. and D.M. Rosenberg. 1990. The Chironomidae (Diptera) of Bone Pile Pond, Delta Marsh, Manitoba, Canada. Wetlands 10:243–275.Google Scholar
  52. Wrubleski, D. A. 1991. Chironomidae (Diptera) community development following experimental manipulation of water levels and aquatic vegetation. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.Google Scholar
  53. Wrubleski, D.A. 1996. Chironomidae (Diptera) of the Woodworth Study Area, North Dakota. Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science 50:115–118.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan S. King
    • 1
  • Dale A. Wrubleski
    • 2
  1. 1.Duke Wetland Center Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.NRC Research Associate U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyMid-Continent Ecology DivisionDuluthUSA

Personalised recommendations