Hannon, S.J., Gruys, R.C. & Schieck, J.O. 2003: Differential seasonal mortality of the sexes in willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus in northern British Columbia, Canada. - Wildl. Biol. 9: 317-326.
We assessed sex ratio, annual survival rates and patterns of seasonal mortality of female and male willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus in northwestern British Columbia. Annual sex ratio of birds on the breeding area did not statistically differ from a 1:1 ratio over eight years, although in six of the eight years males were more numerous. Over eight years, annual survival, based on return rates of banded birds, was 41-63% for males and 30-54% for females. We analysed seasonal patterns of mortality using radio-tagged birds. During four springs and summers, female survival varied from 74 to 97%. They suffered the highest mortality during late prelaying, incubation and pre-fledging brood rearing periods, and most were killed by raptors. Broodless females survived better (100%) than females accompanied by broods (77%). No radio-tagged males died during two breeding seasons. Survival for both sexes was lower in autumn/winter (40-60%) than in spring/summer (75-100%). In autumn, the highest mortality for both sexes occurred during the late brood rearing and winter moult periods, coinciding with the autumn raptor migration. Both sexes had similar mortality rates over winter, despite separating by habitat. Another peak in male mortality occurred in late winter/early spring during the period of transient territoriality, whereas no females were killed during this time. From 1.4 to 3 times as many males as females were killed by hunters. Higher mortality of males during the hunting season and in late winter may balance the higher mortality of females during the breeding season, resulting in a breeding sex ratio that is close to unity.
Key words: breeding, Lagopus lagopus, mortality, sex, survival, willow ptarmigan
Susan J. Hannon, Rogier C. Gruys* & Jim O. Schieck**, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9 - e-mail addresses: email@example.com (Susan J. Hannon); firstname.lastname@example.org (Rogier C. Gruys); email@example.com (Jim O. Schieck)
*U Vic Communications, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700 Stn Csc, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 2Y2
** Forest Resources, Alberta Research Council, Bag 4000, Vegreville Alberta, Canada T9C 1T4
Corresponding author: Susan J. Hannon