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Foraging behaviour and fuel accumulation of capital breeders during spring migration as derived from a combination of satellite- and ground-based observations

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Magda E. Chudzińska, Jacob Nabe-Nielsen, Bart A. Nolet, Jesper Madsen

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Abstract

The migration strategy of many capital breeders is to garner body stores along the flyway at distinct stopover sites. The rate at which they can fuel is likely to be strongly influenced by a range of factors, such as physiology, food availability, time available for foraging and perceived predation. We analysed the foraging behaviour and fuel accumulation of pink-footed geese, an Arctic capital breeder, at their mid-flyway spring stopover site and evaluated to what extent their behaviour and fuelling were related to physiological and external factors and how it differed from other stopovers along the flyway. We found that fuel accumulation rates of geese at the mid-flyway site were limited by habitat availability rather than by digestive constraints. However, as the time available for foraging increased over the stopover season, geese were able to keep constant fuelling rate. Putting this in perspective, geese increased their daily net energy intake along the flyway corresponding to the increase in time available for foraging. The net energy intake per hour of foraging remained the same. Geese showed differences in their reaction to predators/disturbance between the sites, taking higher risks particularly at the final stopover site. Hence, perceived predation along the flyway may force birds to postpone the final fuel accumulation to the last stopover along the flyway. Flexibility in behaviour appears to be an important trait to ensure fitness in this capital breeder. Our findings are based on a new, improved method for estimating fuel accumulation of animals foraging in heterogeneous landscapes based on data obtained from satellite telemetry and habitat specific intake rates.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-574
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume47
Issue number4
Early online date26 Feb 2016
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2016

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