• active management;
  • duck energy-days;
  • energetic carrying capacity;
  • migration;
  • Ohio;
  • passive management;
  • waterfowl;
  • wetland restoration

ABSTRACT  Habitat conservation strategies of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) are guided by current understanding of factors that limit growth of waterfowl populations. The 1998 implementation plan of the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (UMR and GLRJV) assumed that availability of foraging resources during autumn in wetlands actively managed for waterfowl was the primary limiting factor for duck populations during the nonbreeding season. We used multistage sampling during autumn and spring 2001–2004 to estimate energetic carrying capacity (ECC) of actively and passively managed wetlands in Ohio, USA, and examine this assumption. Energetic carrying capacity during autumn was similar between actively and passively managed wetlands each year. Averaged across years, energetic carrying capacity was 3,446 and 2,047 duck energy-days (DED)/ha for actively and passively managed wetlands, respectively. These estimates exceeded the UMR and GLRJV assumption that 1,236 DED/ha were provided by managed wetland habitats. Energetic carrying capacity declined each year by >80% between autumn and spring migration. Consequently, ECC of actively and passively managed wetlands was low during spring (inline image = 66–242 DED/ha). These results suggested that duck foraging resources in actively and passively managed wetland habitats are abundant during autumn, but overwinter declines may create food-limiting environments during spring.