Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) and Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are common cavity-nesting ducks but the importance of fast-flowing rivers as suitable nesting habitat may have been overlooked. We monitored the use of >90 nest boxes installed along a boreal forest river over a 5-year period. A high nest box occupancy rate was reached in the second year (40%) and was maintained thereafter (48 to 55%). On average, 35 nest boxes were occupied by goldeneyes and 11 by mergansers each year. Laying date was similar between the two species but merganser nests hatched slightly later. Both species had similar clutch sizes but merganser nests contained more eggs than goldeneye nests when heterospecific parasitic eggs were included. On average, 16% of goldeneye nests were parasitized by mergansers, and 49% of merganser nests were parasitized by goldeneyes. Density of suitable natural cavities in the area was relatively low suggesting the high occupancy rate of nest boxes may be a response to lack of suitable cavities. Nest box use was positively related to the total surface area of ponds in the vicinity and negatively to distance to the river. Use of nest sites along fast-flowing rivers appears to be an opportunistic strategy and may be dependant on the presence of nearby ponds and lakes.
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Vol. 120 • No. 4