Weather-Related Indices of Autumn– Winter Dabbling Duck Abundance in Middle North America




ABSTRACT  Research on effects of key weather stimuli influencing waterfowl migration during autumn and winter is limited. We investigated relationships between changes in relative abundances of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and other dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) and weather variables at midlatitude locations in North America. We used waterfowl survey data from Missouri Conservation Areas and temperature and snow cover data from the Historical Climatology Network to evaluate competing models to explain changes in relative abundance of ducks in Missouri, USA, during autumn-winter, 1995–2005. We found that a cumulative weather severity index model (CumulativeWSI; calculated as mean daily temp - degrees C + no. of consecutive days with mean temp ≤ 0° C + snow depth + no. of consecutive days with snow cover) had the greatest weight of evidence in explaining changes in relative abundance of ducks. We concluded the CumulativeWSI reflected current and cumulative effects of ambient temperatures on energy expenditure by ducks, and snow cover and wetland icing, on food availability for ducks. The CumulativeWSI may be useful in determining potential changes in autumn-winter distributions of North American waterfowl given different climate change projections and associated changes in habitat conservation needs. Future investigations should address interactions between CumulativeWSI and landscape habitat quality, regional waterfowl populations, hunter harvest, and other anthropogenic influences to increase understanding of waterfowl migration during autumn-winter.