Time energy budgets and food use of Atlantic brant across their wintering range

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We conducted extensive behavioral and food sampling of Atlantic brant (Branta bernicla hrota) across their winter range and used time-activity budgets for brant to determine daily energy expenditure (DEE). Sampling occurred 1 December-31 May 2006-2008 in 11,225-km2 sites between Rhode Island and Virginia containing important estuarine and upland habitat. To calculate DEE we used instantaneous scan sampling to estimate time-activity budgets. We also determined foods eaten by brant and energy density of food plants. Last, we quantified body condition of brant, which differed among years, months, regions, and ages, and sexes. Overall DEE for brant was 1,530 ± 64 kJ/day. There was considerable variation in time-activity budgets among years, months, regions, habitat, tide, temperature, and time-of-day, but we detected no significant difference in DEE of brant between years or among regions. However, DEE in January (2,018 ± 173 kJ/day) was nearly double the DEE of brant in May (1,048 ± 137 kJ/day). Brant spent their time feeding (32.3%), swimming (26.2%), resting (16.2%), and flying (14.5%). The percent of brant foreguts sampled contained macroalgae (53%) eelgrass (Zostera marina; 18%), salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora; 17%), and terrestrial grass (Poa. sp.) and clover (Trifollium sp.; 9%). Energy density differed by vegetation type: macroalgae (12.6 ± 0.1 kJ/g), eelgrass (14.1 ± 0.1 kJ/g), new-growth salt marsh cordgrass (16.9 ± 0.2 kJ/g), and terrestrial grass and clover (17.7 ± 0.1 kJ/g). Atlantic brant exhibited behavioral plasticity thereby allowing modification of daily activity budgets to meet seasonally varying energetic requirements associated with wintering and spring staging. Recognizing a variable DEE can be used along with eventual estimates of food biomass and total metabolizable energy on the landscape to calculate carrying capacity (goose use days) on state, region, or range-wide scales. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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Journal of Wildlife Management