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Population energetics of the american white ibis

, : Population energetics of the american white ibis. Auk 94(1): 114-122

The white ibis [Eudocimus albus] population nesting in the fluctuating water ecosystem of S Florida [USA] numbered up to 62,000 birds and used several nesting habitats including islands in large lakes, the vast freshwater marshes of the Everglades and coastal estuaries. Periodic reproduction at large inland colonies, accounting for 93-98% of the nesting birds, sustains the population at its current level, but smaller, more consistantly successful coastal colonies provide recruitment during years of inland nesting failure. Clutch size, brood reduction pattern and energy requirements showed intraregional variation. Clutch size differences may be related to habitat, with lowered clutch sizes along the coast. Despite clutch size differences, the number of young fledged was similar in different colonies. Intraregional variation in timing of brood reduction resulted in differences in the energy required for nesting. The daily energy expenditure of white ibis was estimated from the time-activity budget and multiples of measured metabolic rates. Although existence metabolism was similar to that predicted by Kendeigh's (1970) regression, daily energy expenditure was considerably below that predicted by extrapolating King's (1974) regression, suggesting a slower increase of DEE [daily energy expenditure] at higher body weights. The white ibis consumed about 21% of its body weight daily, similar to that found in other studies of ciconiiformes. The energy required to raise a brood of young was 9.2-9.9 .times. 103 kcal. The nesting population expended 930 and 640 .times. 106 kcal during 1972 and 1973, respectively. Over 70% of this energy was derived from the Everglades and over 90% from inland habitats. Contrasted with the wood stork, the smaller size and shorter nesting cycle enables nesting white ibis to support 11 times the population on 1.1 times the energy. The ability of smaller birds to maintain higher populations on a given resource base may supply a competitive advantage during times of intense resource-based selection. Together the south Florida populations of white ibis and wood storks require 1.9 billion kcal/nesting season and are important determinants of energy flow in the wetland ecosystem.


DOI: 10.2307/4084896

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