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Food selection among Atlantic Coast seaducks during 1999-2005 was determined from hunter-killed ducks and compared to data from historic food habits file (1885-1985) for major migrational and wintering areas in the Atlantic Flyway. Food selection was determined by analyses of the gullet (esophagus and proventriculus) and gizzard of 860 ducks and summarized by aggregate percent for each species. When sample size was adequate comparisons were made among age and sex groupings and also among local sites in major habitat areas. Common eiders in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes fed predominantly (53%) on the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). Scoters in Massachusetts, Maine, and the Canadian Maritimes fed predominantly on the blue mussel (46%), Atlantic jackknife clam (Ensis directus; 19%), and Atlantic surf clam (Spisula solidissima; 15%), whereas scoters in the Chesapeake Bay fed predominantly on hooked mussel (Ischadium recurvum; 42%), the stout razor clam (Tagelus plebeius; 22%), and dwarf surf clam (Mulinia lateralis; 15%). The amethyst gem clam (Gemma gemma) was the predominant food (45%) of long-tailed ducks in Chesapeake Bay. Buffleheads and common goldeneyes fed on a mixed diet of mollusks and soft bodied invertebrates (amphipods, isopods and polychaetes). No major differences were noticed between the sexes in regard to food selection in any of the wintering areas. Comparisons to historic food habits in all areas failed to detect major differences. However, several invertebrate species recorded in historic samples were not found in current samples and two invasive species (Atlantic Rangia, Rangia cuneata and green crab, Carcinas maenas) were recorded in modem samples, but not in historic samples. Benthic sampling in areas where seaducks were collected showed a close correlation between consumption and availability. Each seaduck species appears to fill a unique niche in regard to feeding ecology, although there is much overlap of prey species selected. Understanding the trophic relationships of seaducks in coastal wintering areas will give managers a better understanding of habitat changes in regard to future environmental perturbations.
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Food selection among Atlantic Coast seaducks in relation to historic food habits