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  • Writer's picturejohnfmcevoy

New Publication: Australian Wood Ducks

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) with a satellite transmitter backpack

​During my time at University of New England in Australia I worked on a waterfowl project with Paul McDonald and Graham Hall. We tracked a number of different waterfowl species including Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) and Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) in different landscapes, from the unpredictable arid interior to the highly predictable agricultural landscapes of Armidale in NSW. This project also included a lot of monitoring waterfowl populations from above using drones which we published here.

Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) with a satellite transmitter backpack

A major part of the work was to compare and contrast the movement ecology of waterfowl in these different landscapes. In this publication we deployed satellite transmitters to provide the first detailed picture of the movement behaviour of Australian Wood Ducks through agricultural landscapes where the availability and spatial arrangement of resources are highly predictable. Wood Ducks are a funny little grazing duck and, like so many Australian animals, hang out in a genus all by themselves. They primarily graze on grass and nest in tree cavities and old logs. They are to be found all across Australia and I have found them out in the wildest most remote deserts and in every local park in every city. The have a vaguely questioning tone to their calls and the males have funky little mullet hair cuts. Hence their other common name, the maned duck.

Wood Duck movement in km/hr vs time of day

We used ctmm models to measure home-range areas of individual Australian Wood Ducks and investigated their site fidelity by comparing the overlap of successive home-range areas on a fortnightly temporal scale. We also used first passage time (FPT) analysis to determine the spatial scales at which foraging occurs within home-range areas. We found a very high degree of site fidelity and no obvious pattern in the spatial scales on which foraging occurred. This likely reflects the almost homogeneous distribution of grazing areas and farm dams throughout the landscape in all directions. Our results support the conclusions of previous studies suggesting that the movement behaviour of Australian Wood Ducks is shaped strongly by the temporal and spatial predictability of their grazing areas and access to water in the form of farm dams, which are pretty much everywhere in the landscape.

A map of our study site in Armidale, NSW, Australia

Unfortunately I couldn't afford to pay the large sum of money the journal wanted to make the paper open-access so you can only see the full publication here if you have an institutional subscription to the publisher. If you can't see the full text and would like a copy of the manuscript please feel free to contact me directly.

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