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The preferred feeding habitats of 5 species of wintering and migrating dabbling ducks anas sp in the camargue wetlands france a spatiotemporal model

The preferred feeding habitats of 5 species of wintering and migrating dabbling ducks anas sp in the camargue wetlands france a spatiotemporal model

Revue d'Ecologie la Terre et la Vie 39(2): 167-192

Since feeding activity is mainly nocturnal and waterfowl diets are usually composed of prey supporting a broad range of salinity, determining the preferred feeding habitats of ducks wintering in a mediterranean delta is often difficult. A method of assessing these habitats is described which is based on computing the resources available on the main types of feeding grounds (from mud-samples) and the prey found in the esophagus of 5 spp. [Anas platyrhynchos, A. acuta, A. crecca crecca, A. querquedula, A. clypeata] of ducks (mallard, pintail, teal, gargancy and shoveler) mainly killed in the morning (from hunters' bags). The data processing (correspondence analysis) of the seed biomasses gives to the commonly ingested seeds an indicative value of the type of habitat in which they might be found by the ducks; plant species also have coordinated measures on a factorial F1F2 chart which are further used in the automatic determination of each bird's feeding place according to the quality of its diet. From Aug.-March, seasonal changes in nocturnal utilization of habitats can be related to the general availability of the feeding grounds due to marsh management, rainfall flooding and rice harvesting. The intensity of use indicates that the choice for a feeding place itself is then more closely related to its high seed content than to the number of invertebrates, isolating the freshwater marshes and the rice-fields as the best feeding grounds. Night counts on quadrats using a light intensifier allow a comparison between lab and field data to detect possible biases. The use of seed only in assessing habitat choice gives satisfactory results for granivorous species (mallard, pintail, teal) although they eat some animal prey (chironomids and mollusks) and even for mainly zoophagous species (garganey and shoveler). Taking into account many other habitat features, the seed biomasses and the average range of winter salinity provide an easy way of predicting accurately the night carrying capacity of the delta marshes.

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