Little empirical information exists to assess to what degree geese use a capital versus income breeding strategy for investing nutrients into eggs. We used stable isotope methods to directly estimate the sources of protein deposited into egg yolks of Brent Branta bernicla and Emperor Geese Anser canagicus on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA. Approximately 59 and 45% of protein in egg yolks of Brent and Emperor Geese, respectively, was derived from exogenous sources (i.e. food plants on the local breeding area). Within clutches of Brent Goose eggs, first-laid eggs exhibited slightly higher contributions from endogenous reserves than last-laid eggs. This pattern was less clear for Emperor Geese, which may have been a consequence of possibly analysing eggs that were laid by intraspecific nest parasites rather than by hosts. For both these species, individuals exhibited large variability in the percent contribution of exogenous versus endogenous stores to eggs, and future studies should identify ecological factors related to this variation. Those Emperor Geese in poor body condition incubated their nests less constantly, and based on ??13C values, they fed on terrestrial foods while, off their nests. Although not a pure capital breeder, Emperor Geese used nutrients garnered on spring staging areas to fuel virtually all their own maintenance during incubation and to contribute half or more of the nutrients in eggs. These results highlight the ecological importance of these spring staging habitats to geese.
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An isotopic assessment of protein from diet and endogenous stores: Effects on egg production and incubation behaviour of geese