Advisor: Dr. Michael Eichholz
Migration Patterns, Habitat Use, Food Habits, and Harvest Characteristics of Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) Wintering on Lake Michigan
Recent aerial surveys indicate that Lake Michigan supports a considerable number of wintering long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis). For example, a December 2013 survey tallied over 18,000 long-tailed ducks (LTDUs) along 2,400 km of transects. Ranking high in priority with the Sea Duck Joint Venture, LTDUs have been a focal species in a large-scale wintering telemetry project in the Atlantic and Great Lakes regions to address information needs concerning population delineation, migration, and ecology. While a large effort has been placed on radio-marking LTDUs during 2007-2013 on the Atlantic coast and Lake Ontario, the effort has not yet included Lake Michigan. Additionally, hunter harvest of LTDUs has increased since 2002, and forage base has likely changed due to invasive species. We will implant adult female LTDUs wintering on Lake Michigan with satellite transmitters to determine temporal and spatial patterns of migration, breeding ground affiliations, and site fidelity. We will conduct a voluntary boat launch survey on Lake Michigan to assess LTDU harvest, determine harvest rates, species composition, and sex ratios. We will use a combination of hunter harvested LTDUs and Next Generation Sequencing of fecal DNA to determine and assess changes in LTDU diet. Results of the study will aid managers as they deal with outbreaks of type-E avian botulism, near and off-shore wind energy development, and assessment of hunter regulations.