A time budget study of mallards on the Texas High Plains
Lee, Sang Don
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The playas of the Southern High Plains (SHP) are important habitat for wintering waterfowl. In years of adequate rainfall, wintering waterfowl populations can exceed 1 million birds on the SHP. However, the recent trend toward playa modification for agricultural use is threatening waterfowl habitat in this region. Diurnal activity budgets of wintering mallards were conducted (1 October-31 March, 1983-1984;1984-85) to test differences among activity patterns at 3 habitat types; steep-sided pits, terraced pits, and open lakes. All seven activity patterns were different (P <0.05) among the 3 habitat types for wintering mallards on the SHP of Texas. Terraced pits had the greatest feeding activity (27.8%) and were higher (P <0.001) than steep-sided pits (11.2%) or open lakes (2.6%) even though the latter have an abundance of macroinvertebrates. Hens fed more than drakes (P <0.05). Locomotion (32.2%) and alert (2.8%) behavior across the 3 habitat types showed the highest level during the early morning. Paired mallards rested more (37.9%) than unpaired mallards (25.8%) (P <0.05). Agonistic activity was highest (2.4%) in terraced pits throughout the season. This study suggests that wintering mallards will feed in lakes if food is available, thus potentially balancing a high corn diet.