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Coping with darkness and low temperatures: foraging strategies in Steller's eiders, Polysticta stelleri, wintering at high latitudes


, : Coping with darkness and low temperatures: foraging strategies in Steller's eiders, Polysticta stelleri, wintering at high latitudes. Canadian Journal of Zoology 79(3): 2-6

To examine how Steller's eiders, Polysticta stelleri, wintering at 70[degree]N cope with adverse winter conditions in terms of darkness and low temperatures, we studied their feeding behaviour during four periods between late autumn and early spring. Steller's eiders were most likely to feed during daylight and twilight, but they also fed during darkness. The incidence of feeding was highest at low tide, and there was a significant interaction between tidal cycle and winter period. Hence, the birds fed more intensively at low tide in midwinter (January) than during the other periods. Air temperatures were between 8 and 10[degree]C lower in midwinter than during the other periods, and during this period the eiders also fed more by means of nondiving techniques (up-ending, surface feeding). The total estimated feeding time was highest in late autumn and midwinter (5.9 and 6.3 h were spent actively feeding, respectively) and lower in late winter and spring (5.1 and 4.6 h, respectively). Thus, as energy requirements increased as a result of low temperatures, Steller's eiders increased their feeding effort, but also reduced feeding costs by reducing diving depth. The results of this study suggest that the Steller's eider is behaviourally well adapted to survive winter at high latitudes at relatively low stress.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1139/z00-213


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