Food consumption, digesta retention time, and food preference were measured for captive whooping cranes fed pelleted diets. The basal commercial diet was compared to four mixtures containing 70% basal and 30% of one of four important winter foods for the whooping crane: blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), wolfberry fruit (Lycium carolinianurn), live oak acorn (Quercus virginiana), or common Rangia clam (Rangia cuneata). Because captive birds would not eat whole foods, we were prevented from direct food preference tests. Food passed through the gut rapidly, with almost complete elimination within 7 hr. There was some indication that retention time was shorter for the low fiber and high ash and calcium clam diet. Cranes ate less wolfberry feed (g/day) than the other feeds, and all birds ate less wolfberry feed on the day it was first fed, compared to basal diet the previous day. Birds ate more low energy feed than high energy feed. Due to combined effects of low energy content, lower metabolizable energy coefficients, and reduced feed consumption, less energy was assimilated for study diets than basal diet. Apparent shorter retention times for some diets con-taming whooping crane foods may partly explain lower digestibilities and metabolizable energy of winter whooping crane foods compared to commercial crane diet.
Additional publication details
Food consumption and retention time in captive whooping cranes (Grus americana)