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Data from: Sex-specific prey partitioning in breeding piscivorous birds examined via a novel, non-invasive approach

Citation

Thalinger, Bettina et al. (2019), Data from: Sex-specific prey partitioning in breeding piscivorous birds examined via a novel, non-invasive approach, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b30c555

Abstract

Piscivorous birds frequently display sex-specific differences in their hunting and feeding behaviour, which lead to diverging impacts on prey populations. Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae), for example, were previously studied to examine dietary differences between the sexes and males were found to consume larger fish in coastal areas during autumn and winter. However, information on prey partitioning during breeding and generally on sex-specific foraging in inland waters is missing. Here, we assess sex-specific prey choice of Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) during two subsequent breeding seasons in the Central European Alpine foreland, an area characterized by numerous stagnant and flowing waters in close proximity to each other. We developed a unique, non-invasive approach and applied it to regurgitated pellets: molecular cormorant sexing combined with molecular fish identification and fish-length regression analysis performed on prey hard parts. Altogether, 364 pellets delivered information on both, bird sex and consumed prey. The sexes differed significantly in their overall prey composition, even though Perca fluviatilis, Rutilus rutilus and Coregonus spp. represented the main food source for both. Albeit prey composition did not indicate the use of different water bodies by the sexes, male diet was characterized by higher prey diversity within a pellet and the consumption of larger fish. The current findings show that female and male cormorants to some extent target the available prey spectrum at different levels. Finally, the comprehensive and non-invasive approach has great potential for application in studies of other piscivorous bird species.

Usage Notes

Location

Central European Alpine foreland