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Predation on Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) spawn by birds in Prince William Sound, Alaska

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We examined bird diets in areas with Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) spawn at northern Montague Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Diets of the five most abundant bird species consisted primarily of herring spawn. Using a bioenergetics model, we estimated that in spring 1994 the five-bird species ate 857.1 metric tons (mt), representing 31% of the estimated spawn deposition. The two most numerous consumers, glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) and mew gull (Larus canus) consumed 26% and 3%, respectively, of the estimated spawn deposition. Surf scoters (Melanitta perspicillata), surfbirds (Aphriza virgata), and black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) together consumed 2% of the spawn deposition. In years with low spawn biomass, such as 1994, the number of herring larvae produced could be significantly affected by normal rates of avian predation. The high consumption by gulls, shorebirds, and surf scoters underscores the importance of herring spawn in the annual cycle of these species and requires further investigation.
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Keywords: Clupea pallasi; avian predation; bioenergetics; egg loss; glaucous-winged gull; spawn

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2001

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