Resources for long-distance migration of knots Calidris canutus islandica and C. c. canutus: How broad is the temporal exploitation window of benthic prey in the western and eastern Wadden Sea?

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In the course of each spring, two subspecies of knots Calidris canutus (islandica wintering in Europe and breeding in the Nearctic, and canutus wintering in west Africa and breeding in Siberia), stage in the international Wadden Sea before their northward flights to the arctic breeding grounds. In March-April islandica-knots predominantly use the intertidal flats in the western part of the Wadden Sea in The Netherlands (canutus is still in west Africa). In May both subspecies use the eastern part of the Wadden Sea in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany only. We studied these knots in core areas at both ends of the Wadden Sea in 1990, to examine whether the absence of knots in the western Wadden Sea in May is related to food resources or to other factors connected with the energy budget of these long-distance migrants. Islandica-knots in March-April in The Netherlands and canutus-knots in May in Germany had similar diets and showed similar size selection of their major bivalve prey Macoma balthica, giving the possibility for indirect competitive interactions. Knots spent more time feeding per day in Germany. The harvestable biomass of Macoma was of comparable magnitude in both parts of the Wadden Sea in May. That knots always leave the western Wadden Sea in late April is, therefore, not a direct response to prey depletion. If Macoma always subsides earlier in the year in the western part of the Wadden Sea than in the east as in 1990, the knots' absence in the west may represent the riding of an eastward wave of good feeding conditions resulting from longitudinal variation in bivalve-prey biology. At least for canutus, the reliance in May on the eastern Wadden Sea may (additionally?) represent early movements - at relatively low body masses - towards the breeding areas to gain the benefits of a small saving on the cost and time of travel, and of being closer to the weather systems that may help their flight into the breeding areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-407
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • FOOD
  • WASH

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