Body size affects foraging and forage intake rates directly via energetic processes and indirectly through interactions with social status and social behaviour. Ambient temperature has a relatively greater effect on the energetics of smaller species, which also generally are more vulnerable to predator attacks than are larger species. We examined variability in an index of intake rates and an index of alertness in Lesser Snow Geese Chen caerulescens caerulescens and Ross's Geese Chen rossii wintering in southwest Louisiana. Specifically we examined variation in these response variables that could be attributed to species, age, family size and ambient temperature. We hypothesized that the smaller Ross's Geese would spend relatively more time feeding, exhibit relatively higher peck rates, spend more time alert or raise their heads up from feeding more frequently, and would respond to declining temperatures by increasing their proportion of time spent feeding. As predicted, we found that Ross's Geese spent more time feeding than did Snow Geese and had slightly higher peck rates than Snow Geese in one of two winters. Ross's Geese spent more time alert than did Snow Geese in one winter, but alert rates differed by family size, independent of species, in contrast to our prediction. In one winter, time spent foraging and walking was inversely related to average daily temperature, but both varied independently of species. Effects of age and family size on time budgets were generally independent of species and in accordance with previous studies. We conclude that body size is a key variable influencing time spent feeding in Ross's Geese, which may require a high time spent feeding at the expense of other activities. ?? 2008 The Authors.
Additional publication details
Time budgets of Snow Geese Chen caerulescens and Ross's Geese Chen rossii in mixed flocks: Implications of body size, ambient temperature and family associations