Is diet segregation between dabbling ducks due to food partitioning? A review of seasonal patterns in the Western Palearctic



Anne-Laure Brochet, CNERA AM, ONCFS, La Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, Arles, 13200, France.



Within the paradigm of resource-limited competition-structured communities, dabbling ducks (Anas spp.) have been used as a textbook example of how morphological differences, notably bill lamellar density and body length, may allow sympatric species to partition food and hence coexist. We reviewed all accessible diet studies from the Western Palearctic for three closely related dabbling duck species, mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), pintail (A. acuta) and teal (A. crecca), and present a comprehensive list of the food items (invertebrates, seeds, vegetative parts of plants) ingested. To assess the circumannual perspective of niche separation, we evaluated size distribution of ingested seeds among seasons and duck species. There was a significant difference among duck species in mean size and mass of ingested seeds, as well as in diet composition, with the largest seeds consumed by the largest species (mallard) with the coarsest bill filter apparatus (lamellae), and the smallest seeds by the smallest species (teal) with the finest bill lamellae. However, no effect of season was found, suggesting consistent diet segregation among species throughout the annual cycle of ducks and over large geographical areas. We argue that the patterns of food size separation between the three species are compatible with the idea of coexistence under interspecific competition.