, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 373-382

Effects of water level changes and wading bird abundance on the foraging behaviour of blacknecked storksEphippiorhynchus asiaticus in Dudwa National Park, India

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Abstract

The effect of water level changes and wading birds' abundance on the foraging behaviour of the blacknecked stork (BNS)Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus was studied from January 1995 to June 1997 in Dudwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh. Our observations indicate that BNS territoriality increased as food levels became depleted, resulting in increased rates of aggression towards intruders. Chasing or aggression was more intense during the early period (February and March) than the late period (April, May and June). Most of (> 50%) the aggressive encounters were observed between 0600 and 1000 h of the day. Seventeen species (including BNS) were observed interacting with BNS, throughout the study period. Most interactions were with the spoonbill,Platalea leucorodia (67.4%), followed by the whitenecked stork,Ciconia episcopus (16.6%). The distance (while foraging) between BNS and other wading birds varied significantly (P < 0001) between years indicating that BNS and other water birds foraged at different water depths and thereby explored the wetlands fully. Spoonbills were chased often; the number varied from 1 to 43 birds. BNS occasionally accepted the presence of other wading birds, including spoonbills and started foraging amidst them. This led to successful foraging of BNS (solitary feeder). Other fish-eating bird species and their numbers also limited the food consumption of foraging BNS as they had to spend time chasing away the intruders. Availability of the preferred prey fish species,Heteropnestus fossilis, forced BNS to stay throughout the year in their respective territories. High (> 60 cm) water levels were not suitable for BNS even though the patch had high prey abundance.