Effects of Saline Environments on the Survival of Wild Goslings (Branta canadensis)

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American Midland Naturalist



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Research on ducklings and goslings has demonstrated that young birds hatched in moderate to high saline environments without access to fresh drinking water grow and develop slower, and have increased mortality rates. Most direct saline-induced mortality happens before day 6 of life, after which time the nasal salt glands become functional. At Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge in western Utah, the water available to Canada goose (Branta canadensis) goslings ranged from brackish to highly saline (3100–25,000 µS/cm) throughout the summer and differed spatially across the impoundments; no fresh water was available. We followed collar-marked, radio-marked and unmarked broods from hatching to day 15 to determine early survival of all goslings hatched in 1997. Nineteen broods hatched between 25 April and 25 May. We analyzed the relationship between specific conductivity of water and gosling mortality in 1997. The levels of salinity found at the refuge within 15 d after hatching were independent of mortality. During dry years salinity levels increase earlier in the Spring and may limit gosling productivity.

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