570 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 10, No. 3
An Extralimital Record of a Louisiana-Banded Mottled Duck
Recovered in South Dakota
Will Selman1,*, Thomas J. Hess, Jr.1, Jeb Linscombe1,3, and Larry Reynolds2
Abstract - Anas fulvigula (Mottled Duck) primarily occupy coastal marshes along the western
Gulf of Mexico and Florida. Previous extralimital records of Mottled Ducks have been recorded
in Great Plains states and in some states along the Atlantic Coast. We report on a female Mottled
Duck that was banded in 2007 on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge (Cameron Parish, LA) and harvested
near Alpena, SD (Sanborn County). This minimum movement of 1680 km is highly unusual in a
species where individuals rarely stray more than 160 km from the coast. Among recent and reliably
documented reports (since 1980), this observation represents the northernmost documented record
for this species. We presume that this individual migrated north with wintering Anas platyrhynchos
(Mallard) it associated with in coastal Louisiana.
Anas fulvigula Ridgway (Mottled Duck) is a nonmigratory, coastal waterfowl
species that resides in peninsular Florida and along the western Gulf of Mexico in
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and south to Veracruz, Mexico (Fig. 1;
Moorman and Grey 1994, Stutzenbaker 1988). The population that occurs in peninsular
Florida is considered geographically separated and genetically distinct
relative to the western Gulf population (McCracken et al. 2001). The coastal
distribution of Mottled Ducks often extends 80–160 km inland from the coastline,
with few records outside this “coastal” zone (Stutzenbaker 1988). Previous
records of waifs from the western Gulf Coast population have occurred as far
inland as northeastern Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin
(Dinsmore and Brees 2007; J. Lutmerding, USGS Birding Lab, Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center, Laurel, MD, pers. comm.; Moorman and Gray 1994, Silcock et
al. 1986, Stutzenbaker 1988), while individuals likely from Florida populations
have been observed in Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, and extreme southern Ontario
(Johnson et al., unpubl. ms., cited in Moorman and Gray 1994; Richards
2008). Extralimital reports of the species are apparently increasing, particularly
in the Great Plains and interior states (Dinsmore and Silcock 2004).
Mottled Duck population dynamics has been a major waterfowl research
focus at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge (RWR) since 1994 (Louisiana Department
of Wildlife and Fisheries, Coastal and Non-game Resources Division). Banding
efforts for Mottled Ducks were initiated in order to determine their status/population
trends in Louisiana given that others were suggesting that Texas populations
of Mottled Ducks were declining; the latter has been confirmed, while Louisiana
populations are considered stable (Wilson 2007). Since the inception of this
project, over 35,000 Mottled Ducks have been banded in Louisiana, with the
vast majority of efforts and number of ducks banded occurring in the marshes
1Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Rockefeller Refuge, 5476 Grand Chenier
Highway, Grand Chenier, LA 70643. 2Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Wildlife
Division, 2000 Quail Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70808. 3Current address - Louisiana Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries, 2415 Darnell Road, New Iberia, LA 70560. *Corresponding author - wselman@
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 10/3, 2011
2011 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 571
of coastal southwestern Louisiana. Banding occurred within Cameron and Vermilion
parishes, including within RWR boundaries, the Southwestern Louisiana
Figure 1. Approximate range of Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula) along the Gulf of Mexico and
Florida (stippled), old/recent confirmed records (black stars), older unconfirmed records (black triangles),
and the recovery locality of a female Mottled Duck near Alpena, SD (black cross). Mottled
Duck range and extralimital records derived primarily from Stutzenbaker (1988), Moorman and
Grey (1994), and others cited in text.
572 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 10, No. 3
National Wildlife Refuge complex (Sabine and Cameron Prairie), and by permission
on private property holdings north of RWR. Banding occurred during
summer months (June–August) and coincided with brood rearing and molt
(Moorman and Gray 1994). Mottled Ducks are easily captured by hand from an
airboat at night with the aid of spotlights and an experienced airboat operator
(Moorman et al. 1993). We report here on a record of a Mottled Duck that was
originally banded on RWR (Cameron Parish, LA) and harvested in South Dakota
(Sanborn County). We believe this is the northernmost reliable report for this
coastal waterfowl species.
On 18 October 2010, a hunter harvested a banded “hen Mallard” (Anas platyrhynchos)
approximately 4.5 miles southeast of Alpena, SD (Sanborn County;
44º07'N, 98º19'W). The hunter reported the species identification and band
number (1757-77681) to the US Geological Survey Bird Banding Lab (USGS
BBL). Subsequently, the hunter-reported information was discovered to be inconsistent
with the original banding data with the USGS BBL, and L. Reynolds
was asked to resolve the discrepancy. The band number was confirmed by W.
Selman to have been placed on a female Mottled Duck that was captured and
banded as a “local” or hatch-year bird at RWR (Cameron Parish, LA; 29º40'N,
92º40'W) on 6 June 2007. After further communication with the USGS BBL, the
hunter acknowledged that he could not differentiate between a female Mottled
Duck and a female Mallard (as would be expected from an inland hunter). The
hunter also provided images of the band and harvested duck (Fig. 2) for further
Figure 2. Banded female Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula; right) and female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos;
left) that were harvested from the same flock near Alpena, SD. Note the darker coloration
on the breast of the Mottled Duck (including buffy feather margins), as well as the contrasting
coloration of the head and body of the Mottled Duck. Picture taken by Todd Engelson and provided
by Brett Engelson.
2011 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 573
documentation. Later conversations between the hunter and W. Selman indicated
that the female Mottled Duck was harvested in a flooded soybean field and that
there were other ducks that flushed in the flock with the Mottled Duck, including
a female Mallard shot from the same flock (≈5 other ducks in the group not
identified to species).
The banding location of the Mottled Duck on 6 June 2007 was within the interior
portion of RWR and in the vicinity of Unit 6 and Unit 13; the exact locality
is not known because night banding efforts usually occur within several square
kilometers during a single banding-night. The area where the duck was captured
and banded is considered to be intermediate marsh, where the dominant plant species
included Spartina patens (Aiton) Muhl. (Saltmeadow Cordgrass) and Typha
spp. (cattails). There was abundant submerged aquatic vegetation (Myriophyllum
spicatum L. [Eurasian Watermilfoil], Najas guadalupensis (Spreng.) Magnus
[Southern Naiad], Potamogeton pusillus L. [Slender Pondweed], and Ruppia maritima
L. [Widgeongrass]) and other emergent vegetation (including Echinochloa
walteri (Pursh) A. Heller [Walter’s Millet], Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth [Sprangletop],
and Cyperus spp. [nutgrass]). This habitat type contrasts sharply with the
habitat where the individual was harvested in South Dakota, where the landscape is
dominated by agricultural fields (Glycine max (L.) Merr. [Soybean] and Zea mays
L. [Corn]) and pasture land. This area of South Dakota had received much higher
levels of moisture than other years, so there was some standing water present in
the Soybean field where the duck was harvested (B. Engelson, hunter who shot the
Mottled Duck, pers. comm.).
Overall, this banded duck traveled a minimum straight-line distance of 1680
km (1040 mi) between the original banding location and the point of harvest
over a period of 3.5 years (Fig. 2). From the photograph provided by the hunter,
the female Mottled Duck appeared to be in good health. Because this Mottled
Duck was shot in a group with at least one other Mallard, we presume this female
Mottled Duck became associated during the winter with Mallards in Louisiana
and thereafter migrated north with the Mallard flock. However, we do not know
if this is the only northward migration that this individual made or if it had made
previous trips out of the coastal range of Mottled Ducks. It is not uncommon to
find mixed flocks of Mallards and Mottled Ducks in southern Louisiana during
winter, as well as interspecific pairing and hybridization of the two species (Mc-
Cracken et al. 2001).
Although harvest recoveries of Mottled Ducks have been reported from more
northern localities in the 1970s (Wisconsin and North Dakota), these records were
not confirmed or investigated to the extent that extralimital records currently are
today (J. Lutmerding, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, pers.
comm.). For example, with older records, it is unclear if the reported information
indicates the location of harvested ducks or the home location of the hunter (Dinsmore
and Brees 2007). Therefore, we believe that this record from South Dakota
is farther north than any other reliably documented record for Mottled Ducks (i.e.,
Iowa, Nebraska, and southern Ontario) and supports the assertion that extralimital
reports of Mottled Ducks are increasing in the Great Plains states (Dinsmore and
574 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 10, No. 3
Acknowledgments. We thank Brett Engelson for his initial reporting of the banded
Mottled Duck to the USGS BBL, for further information regarding the report,
and for a photo of the harvested Mottled Duck. We also appreciate the assistance
of Jo Anna Lutmerding (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center) for alerting us,
providing information on this unique record, and doing a database search for other
banded Mottled Ducks recovered in the northern United States. Ruth Elsey and two
anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript.
We also thank all the individuals at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge who worked long
nights to capture and band Mottled Ducks; without a dedicated effort over the
years, this unique record would not have been possible.
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and conservation biology of the Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula). Conservation
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Moorman, T.E., G.A. Baldassarre, and T.J. Hess, Jr. 1993. Carcass mass and nutrient dynamics of
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