Species distribution and habitat relationships of waterfowl in northeastern Alberta Open Access
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AOSERP Report 81
AOSERP LS 22.1.2
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Canada, Alberta, Fort McMurray
The objective of the waterfowl segment of the AOSERP/Avifauna program consisted of determining waterfowl species abundance and diversity and habitat associations. During waterfowl aerial surveys the length of wetland edge surveyed in 1976 ranged from 373 to 453 km on 65± wetlands. Spring-staging totals for two surveys for this year were 1000 and 3600 ducks. Breeding-pair totals for three surveys ranged from 540 to 870. Two brood surveys revealed 225 and 463 broods; 3590 and 9318 moulting ducks were counted coincidentally. Five fall-staging surveys revealed a total of from 11 000 to 24 000 ducks. Aerial surveys conducted in 1977 were reduced in number and scope with less than half the number of wetlands surveyed in six surveys. Oil sands wetlands were more heavily utilized by diving than dabbling ducks. Analysis of variance for edge type/habitat next-to-edge combinations for diving and dabbling ducks revealed significant associations for both groups of ducks for breeding pairs: dabblers preferred emergent vegetation edge combined with a shrub habitat next-to-edge. Divers preferred, with decreasing preference: emergent vegetation/shrub, wet meadow/coniferous forest, emergent vegetation/wet meadow, and emergent vegetation/mixed forest. Analysis of spring-staging flocks of both dabblers and divers revealed some preferred habitat associations but those did not prove significant. Brood and moulter data showed no significant habitat relationships. Fall-staging divers exhibited significant relationships preferring: open water, shrub/shrub, flooded trees/mixed forest, emergent vegetation/shrub, and shrub/mixed forest. Fall-staging dabblers exhibited habitat preferences but these were not significant. The preferred wetlands types, in descending order, were: lakes with shallow-marsh aquatics, lakes with deep-marsh aquatics, open lakes, creeks, and rivers. The significance of individual wetlands in terms of duck numbers and densities varied throughout the season. However, certain wetlands appeared consistently important: Little McClelland Lake, West Muskeg Lake, Wood Slough, Gordon Lake, Saline Lake, and Algar Lake.
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