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Variation in diet of Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) during stopover in the upper Bay of Fundy, Canada

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Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla (L., 1766)) use the upper Bay of Fundy, Canada, as a critical stopover site during their annual fall migration to wintering grounds in South America. While in the area, they feed extensively on mudflat invertebrates. Historically the amphipod Corophium volutator (Pallas, 1766) has been thought to make up the majority of their diet. However, we have recently observed flexibility in foraging behaviour and prey selection by sandpipers. The extent of this flexibility and the current diet composition is unknown. To address these knowledge gaps, we assessed Semipalmated Sandpiper diets using stable isotope analyses of blood plasma and available prey items. Data were collected in two arms of the Bay of Fundy during summer 2009 and 2010. Diets fluctuated between years and sites, but in all cases the diet was much more diverse than previously thought. Polychaetes and biofilm made substantial contributions, and C. volutator was still present in the diet, but at much reduced levels than previously noted. This previously unrecognized inclusion of biofilm in the diet is consistent with recent observations of other calidrid shorebirds. Based on measures of prey availability, there is little evidence of preference for C. volutator.

Keywords: Bay of Fundy; Calidris pusilla; Corophium volutator; Corophium volutator; Semipalmated Sandpiper; analyse d’isotopes stables; baie de Fundy; biofilm; bécasseau semipalmé; diet flexibility; souplesse du régime alimentaire; stable isotope analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-09-17

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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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