Breeding Ecology of Sympatric Greater and Lesser Scaup (<i>Aythya marila</i> and <i>Aythya affinis</i>) in the Subarctic Northwest Territories


  • Michael A. Fournier
  • James E. Hines



Aythya affinis, Aythya marila, boreal forest, egg success, greater scaup, lesser scaup, hatchability, nest success, Northwest Territories, Subarctic


We studied the breeding ecology of greater and lesser scaup on islands of the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, and on the nearby mainland during 1990-98. The occurrence of nests of both species on the North Arm islands was determined primarily by the distribution of nesting gulls and terns and secondarily by habitat features. Nest parasitism was frequent on the islands, but not on the mainland. Average clutch size was 8.99 ± 0.12 (n = 169) for greater scaup and 9.20 ± 0.17 (n = 93) for lesser scaup on the North Arm, and 8.71 ± 0.18 (n = 55) for lesser scaup on the mainland. No greater scaup nests were found on the mainland. Apparent nest success on the islands was higher (greater scaup 75%, n = 271; lesser scaup 77%, n = 158) than on the mainland (lesser scaup 37%, n = 59). Apparent egg success was 63% (n = 1485) for greater scaup and 67% (n = 934) for lesser scaup on the islands, and 40% (n = 435) for lesser scaup on the mainland. Hatchability of eggs was 98% (n = 556) for greater scaup and 94% (n = 416) for lesser scaup on islands, and 98% (n = 435) for lesser scaup on the mainland. Our findings, when compared to those of previous studies, do not indicate that either clutch size or egg hatchability has declined in recent years. Therefore, it seems unlikely that broad changes in these reproductive parameters are responsible for local or continental declines in lesser scaup populations. However, nest success on our mainland study area may have been too low to maintain the local population.