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Habitat use and foraging patterns of molting long-tailed ducks in lagoons of the central Beaufort Sea, Alaska

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Full Publication: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic4544

Product Type: Journal Article
Year: 2016

Authors: Flint, P. L., J. A. Reed, D. L. Lacroix, and R. B. Lanctot

Suggested Citation:
Flint, P. L., J. A. Reed, D. L. Lacroix, and R. B. Lanctot. 2016. Habitat use and foraging patterns of molting long-tailed ducks in lagoons of the central Beaufort Sea, Alaska. Arctic 69(1). doi:10.14430/arctic4544

Abstract


From mid-July through September, 10 000 to 30 000 Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) use the lagoon systems of the central Beaufort Sea for remigial molt. Little is known about their foraging behavior and patterns of habitat use during this flightless period. We used radio transmitters to track male Long-tailed Ducks through the molt period from 2000 to 2002 in three lagoons: one adjacent to industrial oil field development and activity and two in areas without industrial activity. We found that an index to time spent foraging generally increased through the molt period. Foraging, habitat use, and home range size showed similar patterns, but those patterns were highly variable among lagoons and across years. Even with continuous daylight during the study period, birds tended to use offshore areas during the day for feeding and roosted in protected nearshore waters at night. We suspect that variability in behaviors associated with foraging, habitat use, and home range size are likely influenced by availability of invertebrate prey. Proximity to oil field activity did not appear to affect foraging behaviors of molting Long-tailed Ducks.

Key words: Clangula hyemalis; disturbance; diurnal; home range; radio telemetry

Keywords: disturbance, long-tailed ducks, remigial molt, foraging, lagoons

Annotation


Long-tailed Duck populations have experienced substantial declines and have been considered an indicator species of the effects of oil field activity on waterbirds along the Beaufort Sea coast. Although habitat use patterns varied, ducks tended to use open lagoon habitats (offshore) during the day and nearshore habitats (near islands and mainland) at night. While this study did not detect impacts of industrial development on foraging or habitat use of long-tailed ducks, they are flightless during remigial molt, and therefore care should be taken in development planning in these habitats.