We compared foraging times of female Ross's (Chen rossii) and Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) breeding at Karrak Lake, NT, Canada and examined variation due to time of day and reproductive stage. We subsequently collected female geese that had foraged for known duration and we estimated mass of foods consumed during foraging bouts. Female Ross's Geese spent more time foraging (mean % ?? SE = 28.4 ?? 1.3%; P = 0.0002), on average, than did female Lesser Snow Geese (21.5 ?? 1.4%). Foraging time by female geese differed among reproductive stages, but differences were not consistent among time periods (stage-by-time block interaction, P=0.0003). Females spent considerably more time foraging during prelaying and laying than during incubation. Ross's Geese also spent a greater percent of time feeding (83.0??2.8%) during incubation recesses than did Lesser Snow Geese (60.9??3.6%). Consumption of organic matter during foraging bouts was minimal; estimated consumption averaged 9.6??4.0 and 12.4??4.6 g (mean ?? SE) dry mass/day before incubation and 5.9??2.0 and 5.7??2.1 g dry mass/day during incubation for Lesser Snow and Ross's Geese, respectively. Diets consisted primarily of mosses (bryophytes), Chickweed (Stellaria spp.) and Sedges (Carex spp.). Before incubation, eggshell consumption was estimated as 4.3??3.2 and 0.4??0.3 g dry mass/day for Lesser Snow and Ross's Geese, respectively; neither species consumed eggshell during incubation. We conclude that eggshell from nests of previous years is likely an important source of dietary calcium used to meet mineral demands of eggshell formation at Karrak Lake. Our findings of wide disparities between foraging time and food intake indicate that results from studies that do not directly measure intake rates remain equivocal. Finally, we propose four hypotheses accounting for foraging effort that evidently yields little nutritional or energetic benefit to geese nesting at Karrak Lake.
Additional publication details
Foraging time and dietary intake by breeding ross's and lesser snow geese