The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a focal species in game management, epidemiology and ornithology, but comparably little research has focused on the ecology of the migration seasons. We studied habitat use, time-budgets, home-range sizes, habitat selection, and movements based on spatial data collected with GPS devices attached to wild mallards trapped at an autumn stopover site in the Northwest European flyway. Sixteen individuals (13 males, 3 females) were followed for 15-38 days in October to December 2010. Forty-nine percent (SD = 8.4%) of the ducks' total time, and 85% of the day-time (SD = 28.3%), was spent at sheltered reefs and bays on the coast. Two ducks used ponds, rather than coast, as day-roosts instead. Mallards spent most of the night (76% of total time, SD = 15.8%) on wetlands, mainly on alvar steppe, or in various flooded areas (e.g. coastal meadows). Crop fields with maize were also selectively utilized. Movements between roosting and foraging areas mainly took place at dawn and dusk, and the home-ranges observed in our study are among the largest ever documented for mallards (mean = 6,859 ha; SD = 5,872 ha). This study provides insights into relatively unknown aspects of mallard ecology. The fact that autumn-staging migratory mallards have a well-developed diel activity pattern tightly linked to the use of specific habitats has implications for wetland management, hunting and conservation, as well as for the epidemiology of diseases shared between wildlife and domestic animals.
2014. Vol. 9, no 6, e100764- p.