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Keywords:

  • body condition;
  • food selection;
  • foraging ecology;
  • frugivory;
  • migration;
  • morphology;
  • sympatry

When different populations of the same bird species share non-breeding habitats, competition for food may promote resource partitioning. We studied food choice by resident and migratory Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla in sympatric wintering grounds in southern Spain. Resident Blackcaps have a larger bill, which may allow them to feed on a broader range of fruit sizes, and they may know the distribution of food better than do migrants. Based on fruit and bird counts, we transformed both fruit crop and bird abundance to a common energy currency. During two winters with low and high fruit production, available energy from fruit in mid-January was estimated to be 80 and 1300 times, respectively, the daily requirements of Blackcaps. Furthermore, Blackcap numbers did not track between-winter changes in fruit abundance during 10 consecutive years of monitoring, further suggesting that fruit food is not limiting. Analysis of food items from 760 samples of 717 individuals showed that migrants and residents fed primarily on fruits of Wild Olive Olea europaea sylvestris, the most energetic fruit resource. There was no evidence that the larger bills of resident Blackcaps provided any foraging benefit. Migratory Blackcaps fed on Wild Olives and invertebrates, two resources with high energetic and structural value, more frequently than did residents. This food choice could be more important for migratory Blackcaps because they have lower body mass to reduce wing load. Our results suggest that the wintering grounds of Blackcaps in Iberia provide abundant food that is used by sympatric migrants and residents without resource partitioning. Slight differences in food choice suggest that migrants might benefit from feeding on more nutritive food than residents to counteract the energetic constraints associated with a smaller body size.