Aquatic invertebrates are essential components of duckling diets, but little is known about temporal changes of invertebrate populations in different types of brood habitats. In spring and summer 1996 and 1997, we conducted searches for duck nests in upland fields in the Grasslands Ecological Area in California's Central Valley to determine timing of nest initiation and hatching. We also sampled aquatic invertebrate populations in adjacent permanent wetlands, semi-permanent borrow areas within seasonal wetlands that were drawn down in spring, and reverse-cycle wetlands (i.e., wetlands flooded from spring to summer) to estimate invertebrate food resources available to ducklings. Abundances of many invertebrates important in duckling diets (Gastropoda, Cladocera, Ostracoda, Amphipoda, Corixidae, Dytiscidae, Hydrophilidae) were greater in borrow areas and reverse-cycle wetlands than in permanent wetlands. Peak macroinvertebrate densities in borrow areas occurred immediately after adjacent wetlands are drawn down in March–April. Peak densities in reverse-cycle wetlands and permanent wetlands occur in May. Although total numbers of microinvertebrates (<1 mm size) and macroinvertebrates (≥1 mm size) in all wetlands decreased after May, most mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and cinnamon teal (A. cyanoptera) eggs hatched in May. Therefore, these ducklings hatch when abundant invertebrate food resources were most available in reverse-cycle wetlands. In contrast, most gadwall (A. strepera) eggs hatched in June after invertebrate numbers started to decrease. In areas where hydrology is controlled, managing for reverse-cycle wetlands may be a useful strategy to provide abundant invertebrate food resources during the waterfowl breeding season.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4