This study describes the feeding habits of plaice Pleuronectes platessa and dab Limanda limanda during early juvenile development and relates differences between nursery grounds and sampling years to spatial and temporal variabilities in macrobenthic prey availability. The main prey taxa of both species were copepods, bivalves, amphipods, polychaetes and oligochaetes and size-related variation in diet was found. Despite considerable similarity in the prey items, differences in food composition between the two species were observed and spatial variability in diet confirmed their opportunistic feeding behaviour. A high degree of dietary overlap was found in June and decreased steadily throughout the season. The prey composition in the guts of both species largely reflected the composition of the main macrobenthic taxa in the sediment. The overall data suggest that resources were not limiting in the littoral sandy nursery areas in the west of Ireland and no indications were found that exploitative competitive forces upon the benthic prey assemblages occurred between P. platessa and L. limanda. Feeding success, Fulton's K condition and dietary overlap, however, showed spatial and temporal variations, and were probably affected by the availability and density of macrobenthic prey.