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Diet selection by wintering Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus and the role of food availability

  • ILIAS KARMIRIS (a1), SAVAS KAZANTZIDIS (a1), PANAGIOTIS PLATIS (a1) and THOMAS G. PAPACHRISTOU (a1)
Summary
Summary

The Fennoscandian population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus (LWfG) is on the verge of extinction and migrates from northern Fennoscandia to Greece on a regular seasonal basis. For the first time, diet selection was investigated during two years at Kerkini Lake, a wintering site in Greece. The relative use of LWfG’s feeding habitats was systematically recorded by visual observations of the LWfG flocks. Food availability was measured by the relative cover of available vegetation types while the diet composition was determined by the microhistological analysis of droppings. In addition, we determined crude protein, neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre and acid detergent lignin content of the most preferred plant species by LWfG and all vegetation categories that contributed to LWfG diet in the middle of the duration of their stay at Kerkini Lake and after their departure from the lake. LWfG feeding habitat was exclusively marshy grassland in water less than 5 cm deep up to 300–400 m away from the shore. LWfG selected a diverse number of plant species (33), however, grass made up the 58% of their diets. The most preferred plant species were Echinochloa crus-galli, Cyperus esculentus, Scirpus lacustris and Ranunculus sceleratus. LWfG departed from Kerkini Lake in mid-December to the Evros Delta (Thrace, eastern Greece), when either food availability falls in very low levels or flooding occurred in their main feeding habitat. Consequently, as long as food and habitat resources are available for LWfG, it is very likely that the birds will winter mainly at Kerkini Lake and not at the Evros Delta, which will contribute to further minimisation of the theoretical risk of accidental shooting of LWfG at the latter wintering habitat. Thus, future conservation actions should primarily focus on the grassland improvement at Kerkini Lake enhancing the availability of food resources for LWfG (mainly grasses) and the protection of the feeding habitat from flooding.

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*Author for correspondence; e-mail: thomas.papachristou@fri.gr
References
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