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Isotope variations in white-tailed kites from various habitats in California: Possible limitations in assessing prey utilization and population dynamics

Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies

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, , , , and
https://doi.org/10.1080/1025601031000108679

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Abstract

White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) populations in the 1930s were close to extirpation in the United States. But by the 1940s, an upward trend towards recovery was apparent and continued to their current stable population levels. These dramatic fluctuations in kite numbers may have been related to changes in rodent prey populations due to the conversion of native habitats to agriculture. To address this question, we evaluated the use of stable isotope analysis in determining if a shift in diet could be isotopically differentiated in current and historic kite populations. We first compared δ 13C, δ 15N, and δ 34S values from present-day kite flight feathers and prey fur samples from four locations in California. The total ranges of isotope values for kite and their rodent prey were similar within each site. Carbon isotope values ranged from m 27.1 to m 22.2‰ in Arcata, m 26.1 to m 16.9‰ in Davis, m 27.0 to m 15.0‰ in Cosumnes, and m 28.2 to m 11.6‰ in Santa Barbara. Nitrogen isotope values ranged from 3.2 to 15.7‰ in Arcata, 2.8 to 12.7‰ in Davis, 4.0 to 15.7‰ in Cosumnes, and 1.7 to 20.0‰ in Santa Barbara. Sulfur isotope values ranged from m 7.8 to 12.4‰ in Arcata, m 1.1 to 9.2‰ in Davis, 0.7 to 10.9‰ in Cosumnes, and m 8.6 to 15.6‰ in Santa Barbara. Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope values at each site reflect typical trophic enrichments due to physiological processes. At each site, δ 13C and δ 15N values reflected the influence of a predominantly C3 or a mixed C3/C4 plant community. Sulfur isotope values reflect the influence of predominant marine or terrestrial sulfur sources at each site. However, variability in isotope values may limit the usefulness of such analyses for addressing prey utilization and population dynamics.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Isotope variations in white-tailed kites from various habitats in California: Possible limitations in assessing prey utilization and population dynamics
Series title:
Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies
DOI:
10.1080/1025601031000108679
Volume:
39
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2003
Language:
English
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
Description:
9 p.
First page:
159
Last page:
167