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Experiments on selection of feeding site and food size in oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, of different social status
Leopold, M.F.; Swennen, C.; de Bruijn, L.L.M. (1989). Experiments on selection of feeding site and food size in oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, of different social status. Neth. J. Sea Res. 23(3): 333-346
In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ): Groningen; Den Burg. ISSN 0077-7579; e-ISSN 1873-1406, more
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  • Leopold, M.F., more
  • Swennen, C.
  • de Bruijn, L.L.M.

    Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, were tested for size selection in two prey species, cockles (Cerastoderma edule) and mussels (Mytilus edulis), under semi-natural, but strictly experimental, conditions that allowed recovery of all shells of prey items eaten. Within any patch of cockles offered, size was not an important selection criterion for the birds. The mean length of cockles consumed always differed less than 1 mm (the measuring accuracy) from the mean length of the cockles presented. When given a choice between patches of different prey quality, the birds tended to select patches according to their relative dominance status, with the most dominant bird feeding mainly in the patch where the prey items had the largest flesh contents. Less dominant birds were forced out of the preferred patch and obtained most of their food from a patch of presumedly lower quality. One of these birds adapted its prey-handling method and its bill shape for efficient feeding in such a low quality patch, and it continued feeding in that patch, even after the dominant conspecifics had been removed. In experiments with mussels as prey, the test bird did not select primarily on the basis of size but tended to eat those mussels that were easiest to open. It is concluded that size selection in oystercatchers that eat either cockles or mussels ends with the choice of a certain foraging patch. Within a patch of cockles of one year-class, which is the field condition for the majority of oystercatchers in the Wadden Sea, no selection for size occurs, because this would take too much extra searching time to be profitable.

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