Food Provisioning in Red-Necked Grebes (Podiceps Grisegena) at Common Carp (Cyprinus Carpio) Ponds
Parental feeding patterns were studied in red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) broods throughout the entire period of parental care in a common carp (Cyprinus carpio) fish-pond area in SE Poland in 1993–2002. Fish formed a substantial part of prey provided to the flightless young from their second week of life. Although the numbers of large invertebrates and tadpoles, the alternative prey to fish, did not decrease during the chick rearing period, grebe parents gradually shifted from delivering predominately invertebrates to delivering fish, and the average size of fish fed to chicks increased with brood age. Broods with relatively high fledging success (at least two chicks fledged) had a larger proportion of fish in their diet than broods seriously reduced because of undernourishment. The dive duration of foraging grebe parents did not differ between carp, wild fish and non-fish prey, but carp prey required significantly more time for handling. The percentage of prey rejected by chicks increased over the prefledging period from 2 to 24%. Of the prey rejected, 82% were fish apparently too large for the young to swallow. Fish prevalence in the diet of red-necked grebe chicks at carp ponds contradicts the results of other studies on the feeding habits of the nominative subspecies during breeding season. However, the red-necked grebe is a gape-limited predator and the piscivory of the chicks is limited to small-bodied fish.