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Nutrient acquisition by female Harlequin Ducks prior to spring migration and reproduction: evidence for body mass optimization

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We analysed variation in body mass of adult female Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus (L., 1758)) on coastal wintering sites in southern British Columbia, Canada, to investigate nutrient acquisition prior to migration and reproduction. On average, female mass increased by 7% from late winter to premigration; however, the chronology of mass gain varied depending on prey type. Females feeding on superabundant roe from spawning Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii Valenciennes, 1847) became considerably heavier than they had been before the herring spawning period (March) and appeared to be heavier than females eating marine invertebrates such as crabs, limpets, and snails during the herring spawning period. By mid-April, prior to migration, females at all sites had similar body masses, with birds at sites without spawn gaining mass and those at sites with spawn maintaining their earlier mass gain. Stable isotope analyses confirmed that birds at these different sites consumed very different diets. These results suggest that female Harlequin Ducks target an optimal premigratory body mass, regardless of whether they have access to a superabundant food source; this body mass is presumably shaped by the costs and benefits of nutrient storage for migration and reproduction.

Nous avons analysé la variation de la masse corporelle chez des canards arlequins (Histrionicus histrionicus (L., 1758)) sur leurs sites d’hiver côtiers dans le sud de la Colombie-Britannique pour suivre leur acquisition de nutriments avant la migration et la reproduction. En moyenne, la masse des femelles s’accroît de 7 % de la fin de l’hiver à la prémigration; cependant, la chronologie du gain de masse varie en fonction du type de proies. Les femelles qui se nourrissent de la profusion d’œufs produits par la fraye des harengs du Pacifique (Clupea pallasii Valenciennes, 1847) deviennent considérablement plus lourdes qu’elles ne l’étaient avant la fraye et elles semblent être plus lourdes que les femelles qui se nourrissent d’invertébrés marins, tels que crabes, patelles et gastéropodes, durant la période fraye des harengs (mars). À la mi-avril, avant la migration, les femelles de tous les sites ont des masses corporelles semblables; alors que les oiseaux aux sites sans fraye de harengs augmentent leur masse, les autres aux sites avec fraye maintiennent leur gain de masse antérieur. Des analyses d’isotopes stables confirment que les oiseaux à ces différents sites ont des régimes alimentaires très différents. Ces résultats laissent croire que les canards arlequins femelles visent une masse corporelle prémigratoire optimale, indépendamment de leur accès à une source de nourriture surabondante; cette masse corporelle s’explique sans doute par les coûts et bénéfices de l’emmagasinage de nutriments pour la migration et la reproduction.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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