Preserving the White-Winged Duck

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Preserving the White-Winged Duck

Research Findings
The following important points can be derived from our research:
  • White-Winged Ducks have quite specific habitat requirements. They require shallow water (less than one meter deep) for feeding, either inside mature forest or in open marshes. They also require mature swamp or lowland forest for daytime and nighttime roosting. In particular, they prefer to roost in very tall, emergent trees (either dead or alive) which have large horizontal branches and are located close to water. These habitats need to be protected for the continued viability of this duck population.
  • White-Winged Ducks are most active (i.e., most conspicuous) in early morning and late evening. At these times, the birds fly about, move to other locations, feed in open marshes and ponds, and engage in social interactions. Thus, surveys should be conducted at these times and places.
  • White-Winged Ducks spend most of their time inside dense lowland or swamp forest. It is almost impossible to collect behavioral data in this type of habitat. Thus, researchers must keep in mind that data only collected in open wetlands at dawn and dusk may not completely represent the entire behavioral or ecological repertoire of this species.
  • The mating and breeding season extended from December to May, while the brood rearing period was March through September. At least some birds underwent a wing feather molt at the end of the brood rearing period. The timing of the breeding season may depend on the timing of the rains, but this hypothesis requires further data.
  • In White-Winged Duck broods, the primary female always accompanies the brood. At times, the male or other females will also be present. Broods often use open habitats as night roost sites. At these places, adults and ducklings spend equal amounts of time (during active periods) swimming about, preening and bathing, or resting. They do very little feeding in these open habitats. Thus, ideal brood rearing habitat must include safe roost sites as well as good feeding areas (usually within the forest).
  • The top priority for the conservation ofWhite-Winged Ducks in Way Kambas National Park is the preservation of adequate amounts of good habitat. This includes protecting both mature forest habitat and wetlands. Preferably, several wetlands in an area should be protected from interference or fires so that the birds have a choice of wetlands in times of fluctuations in water level. Forest fires are the biggest threat to White-Winged Duck habitat. Fires prevent early successional forest from maturing and they destroy mature forest.
  • Another concern for the short-term protection of White-Winged Ducks is disturbance by fishermen and hunters. In particular, fishermen go to the upper reaches of the river systems at the beginning of the dry season when water levels are dropping. This is the peak brood-rearing period for White-Winged Ducks, who prefer to use the upper reaches of the rivers systems for brood-rearing. The brood rearing period (in this case, April-September) is when the highest mortality occurs in duck populations. Thus, there is a high likelihood that fishing is detrimental to duck populations. In addition, fishermen and hunters leave behind traps, snares, nets, and fishing line, and occasionally start forest fires, all of which may be detrimental to white-winged ducks.

[The above article is authored by Nancy Drilling and first appeared on FieldTripEarth in April 2004.]

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