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We developed a technique for evaluating duckling habitat quality that is based on two assumptions. In good habitat young birds (1) grow rapidly and thus are better able t o survive stresses such as inclement weather, and (2) spend relatively less time moving about in search of food and more time resting and thus are less conspicuous to predators. We imprinted artificially incubated and hatched ducklings by being present at the time of hatching; i.e., the ducklings thought we were their mother. Ducklings were split into broods and placed on ponds where their growth was measured and their behavior monitored for several days. Comparisons of growth rates and behavioral time budgets allowed us to determine which ponds were better habitat. This paper describes techniques for imprinting, duckling husbandry, and measurement of growth and behavior.
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Maine Agricultural Experiment Station
Hunter Jr., M.L., J.W. Witham, and J. Jones. 1985. Techniques for using the growth and behavior of imprinted ducklings to evaluate habitat quality. Maine Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 117.