Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Joshua D. Stafford

Second Advisor

Aaron T. Pearse


The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America provides critical habitat for waterfowl across life stages, but anthropogenic changes to the landscape have negatively impacted habitat quality for waterfowl. The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is abundant and socioeconomically valuable in the PPR, as it is a preferred target species of waterfowl hunters. Extensive research has evaluated breeding ecology of mallards in the PPR, but the period between juvenile mallards fledging and migrating has rarely been studied. The post-fledging ecology of juvenile mallards is a vital consideration for comprehensive waterfowl management. Further, juvenile mallards are a significant portion of hunter harvest at northern latitudes, so their distributions relative to duck hunting seasons have implications for hunter opportunity and success. I captured 137 juvenile mallards in North and South Dakota during the late summers of 2018–2019 and marked them with intracoelomic satellite transmitters. I associated mallard locations with covariates related to wetland and local-scale habitat features, indices of disturbance, weather, and demographics in models to evaluate habitat selection and movements. Juvenile mallards considered wetland features over local-scale landscape characteristics when selecting habitats. Lacustrine wetlands with complex shorelines were most selected during diurnal and nocturnal periods, but seasonal and semipermanent wetlands were used most used most often. Larger wetlands were selected at night, especially on weekends, suggesting that disturbance factored into habitat selection. Juvenile mallards relocated farthest during strong tail winds, and colder temperatures and more snow cover encouraged relocations to the southeast. By the start of hunting seasons, mallards marked before fledging had moved longer cumulative distances but many were closer to natal wetlands than mallards marked after fledging. Thus, improving nest survival of latenesting mallards could increase localized hunter opportunity by increasing the proportion of juveniles near natal areas later in the post-fledging period. Predicted climate trends for the southeastern PPR suggest increasingly early mallard hatches, warmer temperatures, and changes to the structure and function of extant wetlands, all factors that may influence the distribution of post-fledging juvenile mallards. These results emphasize the need for management practices that maintain landscape heterogeneity, increase resiliency to climate change, and potentially improve survival of late-initiated mallard nests.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Mallard -- Prairie Pothole Region.
Mallard -- North Dakota.
Mallard -- South Dakota.
Ducks -- Habitat.
Wetland ecology.
Waterfowl management.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright