Environmental influences on moult and movement strategies in southern African waterfowl

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Waterfowl annual life history events in north-temperate regions are driven primarily by predictable seasonal variations in temperature. In contrast, the spatio-temporal availability of adequate resources to waterfowl in the semi-arid regions of southern Africa is determined by rainfall which is extremely variable in timing and intensity. I studied the environmental influences on flight-feather moult and movement strategies of southern African waterfowl. Six duck species that are fairly common in most parts of South Africa were selected for the study, namely; Egyptian Geese, Alopochen aegyptiaca, Spur-winged Geese, Plectropterus gambensis, South African Shelducks, Tadorna cana, Yellow-billed Ducks, Anas undulata, Red-billed Teals, A. erythrorhyncha and Southern Pochards, Netta erythrophthalma. I chose two study sites to represent the extremes of environmental conditions in southern African, namely Barberspan (summer-rainfall region) and Strandfontein (temperate winter-rainfall region). I investigated the underlying responses of Afrotropical waterfowl to stochastic varying environmental conditions in southern Africa and the life-history strategies they have evolved to cope with this variability. The study also compares and contrasts the life-history strategies of southern hemisphere waterfowl with those of the northern hemisphere.

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