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The Critical Period and the Interval Between Hatching and Exodus in Mallard Ducklings

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Studies were made of the interval between hatching and exodus in the mallard. 1. The difference in time between the hatching of the first and the last egg in one clutch varies from 3 to 8 hours. If two females have laid their eggs in the same nest, the difference can be up to 30 hours. 2. The age of the ducklings at the time of departure is very often more than 16 hours, which is mentioned as the upper limit of the critical period, during which the imprintability of mallard ducklings reaches its maximum. 3. Ducklings that are hatched in hole-nests are older at the time of exodus than are ducklings from the more usual mallard-nest situated on the ground. A factor contributing to this might be that the possibilities for visual and thus also for auditory imprinting are very limited in the first case and that the exodus from a hole-nest is an unconditioned response solely to auditory stimuli, in contrast to the departure from a nest on the ground, which is caused both by visual and auditory stimuli.

Affiliations: 1: (Division of Ethology, Department of Zoology, University of Stockholm, Sweden

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