The role of invertebrates in the diet, growth and survival of red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) chicks

Authors


All correspondence to: K. J. Park. E-mail: k.j.park@stir.ac.uk

Abstract

The role of diet on the growth, survival and movement of red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus chicks was examined. We compared two areas of moorland in Scotland: a dry heath with a low density of red grouse and poor chick survival; and a wetter heath/bog with relatively higher red grouse numbers and higher rates of chick survival. There were no differences in clutch size or the proportion of eggs hatching between the two moors but brood survival was significantly lower on the dry heath. Radio-tagged hens with broods were monitored during the first 12 days following hatching; the chicks were captured, weighed and faecal samples collected. Invertebrate samples were collected within brood feeding ranges. Analysis of chick faeces was used to identify dietary components. Heather comprised the major dietary component on both moors. Invertebrates formed a higher component of diet on the wet moor, and this was positively correlated with growth rates, which in turn were positively correlated with chick survival. We present data from an experiment carried out in 1982, in which chicks showed higher growth rates with increasing insect availability. We also show that broods in which all the chicks survived (4–10 days) had smaller home-range areas than broods in which some of the chicks died during this period. We suggest that the differences in chick survival between the two populations were the result of variations in the abundance of invertebrates, particularly tipulids. The protein provided by a high invertebrate component in the diet is, therefore, an important determinant of the growth and survival of young red grouse chicks in some areas.

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