The Black Oystercatcher is an internationally recognized bird species of conservation concern and the focus of multiple monitoring programs due its small global population size, restricted range, vulnerability to human and natural threats in nearshore marine ecosystems, and the important role it plays as a top-level consumer in the intertidal food web. I studied a population of Black Oystercatchers in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska in 2013 and 2014, examining variation in chick diet, assessing methods used to monitor diet, and investigating the influence of provisioning on brood survival. To better understand the biases and limitations associated with the quantification of prey remains, I compared diet estimates from prey remains with two other methods: direct observation of adults feeding young, and diet reconstruction by stable isotope analysis. Estimates from collected prey remains over-represented the proportion of limpets in the diet, under-represented the proportion of mussels and barnacles, and failed to detect soft-bodied prey such as worms. I examined age- and habitat-specific variation in chick diet and found no relationship between diet and age of chicks; however, diet differed between gravel beach and rocky island nesting habitats. To determine the importance of diet on brood survival, I modeled daily survival rates of broods as a function of energy intake rate and other ecological factors and found that broods with higher intake rates had higher growth rates and daily survival rates. Given the consequences of reduced energy intake on survival, changes in the abundance and composition of intertidal macroinvertebrates as a result of climate change may have significant impacts on Black Oystercatcher populations. These findings highlight the importance of diet and provisioning to chicks and identify limitations of using prey remains to characterize Black Oystercatcher diet.
Thesis (M.S.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2016
Table of Contents
General Introduction -- Literature Cited -- Chapter 1. Are prey remains reliable indicators of chick diet? -- 1.1 Abstract -- 1.2 Introduction -- 1.3 Methods -- 1.3.1 Prey remains -- 1.3.2 Direct observations -- 1.3.3 Stable isotope analysis -- 1.3.4 Statistical analysis -- 1.4 Results -- 1.4.1 Prey remains -- 1.4.2 Direct observations -- 1.4.3 Stable isotopes -- 1.4.4 Comparison among methods -- 1.5 Discussion -- 1.6 Acknowledgments -- 1.7 Literature Cited -- Chapter 2. Accelerated energy intake increases survival rates of Black Oystercatcher broods -- 2.1 Abstract -- 2.2 Introduction -- 2.3 Methods -- 2.3.1 Study area and field methods -- 2.3.2 Energy analysis -- 2.3.3 Survival analysis -- 2.4 Results -- 2.5 Discussion -- 2.6 Acknowledgments -- 2.7 Literature Cited -- General Conclusions -- Literature Cited.
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