Movement ecology of five Afrotropical waterfowl species from Malawi, Mali and Nigeria §
Habitat availability for Afrotropical waterbirds is highly dynamic with unpredictable rainfall patterns and ephemeral wetlands resulting in diverse movement strategies among different species. Movement strategies among waterfowl encompass resident, regional and intercontinental migrants, but little quantitative information exists on their specific movement patterns. We studied the movement ecology of five Afrotropical waterfowl species marked with satellite transmitters in Malawi, Mali and Nigeria. Resident species, including White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata, Fulvous Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna bicolor and Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus gambensis, remained sedentary during the rainy season and only flew limited distances during other months. In contrast, Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos made short regional movements >50 km in all months and showed little site fidelity to previously used habitats in subsequent years. Garganey Anas quequedula followed an intercontinental strategy and made long-distance jumps across the Sahara and Mediterranean to their Eurasian breeding grounds. Most species flew farthest during the dry season, as mean daily movements varied from 1.5 to 14.2 km and was greatest in the winter months (January–March). Total distance moved varied from 9.5 km for White-faced Whistling Ducks (October–December) to 45.6 km for Knob-billed Ducks (April–June). Nomadic behaviour by Knob-billed Ducks was evidenced by long exploratory flights, but small mean daily movements suggested that they were relying on previous experience. Improving our understanding of these movement strategies increases our ability to assess connectivity of wetland resources that support waterfowl throughout their annual cycle and focuses conservation efforts on their most important habitats.
Keywords: migration, nomadism, Sahel, satellite telemetry, sub-Saharan, waterfowl, wetlands