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Colonial waterbird predation on Lost River and shortnose suckers based on recoveries of passive integrated transponder tags

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Abstract

We evaluated predation on Lost River suckers (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris), both listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), from American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) nesting at mixed species colonies on Clear Lake Reservoir, CA and Upper Klamath Lake, OR during 2009-2014. Predation was evaluated by recovering passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags that were implanted in suckers, subsequently consumed by pelicans or cormorants, and deposited on the birds’ nesting colonies. Data from PIT tag recoveries were used to estimate predation rates (proportion of available tagged suckers consumed) by birds to evaluate the relative susceptibility of suckers to avian predation in Upper Klamath Basin. Data on the size of pelican and cormorant colonies (number of breeding adults) at Clear Lake and Upper Klamath Lake were also collected and reported in the context of predation on suckers.

Results indicate that predation rates varied by sucker species (Lost River, shortnose), sucker age-class (adult, juvenile), bird colony location (Upper Klamath Lake, Clear Lake), and year (2009-2014), demonstrating that predator-prey interactions in the system were dynamic during the study period. Tagged suckers ranging from 72 mm to 730 mm were susceptible to cormorant or pelican predation; all but the largest of the tagged Lost River suckers were susceptible to avian predation. Estimates of minimum, annual predation rates ranged from <0.1% to 4.6% of the available Lost River suckers and from <0.1% to 4.2% of the available shortnose suckers during the study period. Of the two colony locations evaluated, predation rates on suckers in Clear Lake were generally higher by birds nesting at mixed-species colonies on Clear Lake. Birds nesting on Clear Lake also commuted over 75 kilometers to forage on suckers in Upper Klamath Lake. Conversely, there was no evidence that birds nesting in Upper Klamath Lake foraged on tagged suckers in Clear Lake. Although sample sizes of tagged juvenile suckers were small and limited to fish tagged in Upper Klamath Lake, there was evidence that bird predation on juvenile suckers was higher than on adult suckers, with annual predate rate estimates on juvenile suckers ranging from 5.7% to 8.4% of available fish.

The minimum annual predation rates presented here suggests that avian predation may be a factor limiting recovery of populations of Lost River and shortnose suckers, particularly juvenile suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and adult suckers in Clear Lake. Additional research is needed, however, to better assess the impacts of avian predation on sucker populations by (1) recovering PIT tags in a manner so that the species of avian predator is known (i.e., pelican vs. cormorant), (2) measuring predator-specific PIT tag deposition probabilities at each colony, (3) increasing the sample of juvenile suckers in the population that are PIT-tagged, and (4) recovering sufficient sample sizes of PIT tags on bird colonies to describe how various biotic and abiotic factors (e.g., fish size and condition, water levels and quality, and other factors) contribute to sucker susceptibility to avian predation in the Upper Klamath Basin.

 

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Colonial waterbird predation on Lost River and shortnose suckers based on recoveries of passive integrated transponder tags
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 22 p.
Country United States
State California, Oregon
Other Geospatial Clear Lake Resevoir, Upper Klamath Lake
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N