Suitability of Coastal Marshes as Whooping Crane Foraging Habitat in Southwest Louisiana, USA

Waterbirds
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Abstract

Foraging habitat conditions (i.e., water depth, prey biomass, digestible energy density) can be a significant predictor of foraging habitat selection by wading birds. Potential foraging habitats of Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) using marshes include ponds and emergent marsh, but the potential prey and energy availability in these habitat types have rarely been studied. In this study, we estimated daily digestible energy density for Whooping Cranes in different marsh and microhabitat types (i.e., pond, flooded emergent marsh). Also, indicator metrics of foraging habitat suitability for Whooping Cranes were developed based on seasonal water depth, prey biomass, and digestible energy density. Seasonal water depth (cm), prey biomass (g wet weight m-2), and digestible energy density (kcal g-1m-2) ranged from 0.0 to 50.2 ± 2.8, 0.0 to 44.8 ± 22.3, and 0.0 to 31.0 ± 15.3, respectively. With the exception of freshwater emergent marsh in summer, all available habitats were capable of supporting one Whooping Crane per 0.1 ha per day. All habitat types in the marshes had relatively higher suitability in spring and summer than in fall and winter. Our study indicates that based on general energy availability, freshwater marshes in the region can support Whooping Cranes in a relatively small area, particularly in spring and summer. In actuality, the spatial density of ponds, the flood depth of the emergent marsh, and the habitat conditions (e.g., vegetation density) between adjacent suitable habitats will constrain suitable habitat and Whooping Crane numbers.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Suitability of Coastal Marshes as Whooping Crane Foraging Habitat in Southwest Louisiana, USA
Series title Waterbirds
DOI 10.1675/063.037.0304
Volume 37
Issue 3
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Bioone
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 9 p.
First page 254
Last page 263
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Southwest Louisiana
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N