The Body Size-Dependent Diet Composition of North American Sea Ducks in Winter

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Daily food requirements scale with body mass and activity in animals. While small species of birds have higher mass-specific field metabolic rates than larger species, larger species have higher absolute energy costs. Under energy balance, we thus expect the small species to have a higher energy value diet. Also the weight and time constraints for flighted and diurnal foragers should set a maximum to the amount of prey items taken in one meal and to the daily number of meals, respectively. Further, avoidance of competition causes the species to reduce the amount of shared prey in their diet. Some diet segregation is therefore to be expected between species. We tested these hypotheses and investigated the role of body mass in the diet composition of 12 sea duck species (Somateria mollissima, Somateria spectabilis, Somateria fischeri, Polysticta stelleri, Bucephala clangula, Bucephala islandica, Bucephala albeola, Melanitta nigra, Melanitta perspicillata, Melanitta deglandi, Histrionicus histrionicus and Clangula hyemalis) wintering in North America. This study was based on a literature survey with special emphasis given to the diet data from the former US Bureau of Biological Survey. The data supported our hypothesis that the energy value of winter diet of sea ducks scales negatively with body mass. Diet diversity also scaled negatively with body mass. Our results suggest the existence of a minimum for the energy value of avian diets. © 2013 Ouellet et al.




Ouellet, J. F., Vanpé, C., & Guillemette, M. (2013). The Body Size-Dependent Diet Composition of North American Sea Ducks in Winter. PLoS ONE, 8(6).

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