, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 19–28 | Cite as

Spring staging in Brent Geese Branta bernicla: feeding constraints and the impact of diet on the accumulation of body reserves

  • Jouke Prop
  • Charlotte Deerenberg
Original Papers


The diet composition of Brent Geese Branta bernicla on a salt-marsh was quantified. Puccinellia maritima was the principal food species, while Plantago maritima and Triglochin maritima were less commonly taken. Festuca rubra only acted as a substitute for Puccinellia when production of the latter species dropped. The metabolizable energy of the food plants ranged from 5 to 11 kJ·g−1. By assessing the ingestion rates of geese feeding on different food species, the net intake rate could be derived. Plantago and Triglochin appeared to be the most profitable plants to eat. The proportion of these species in the diet was restricted by (1) the capacity of the alimentary tract, since high intake rates combined with high water contents of the food plants easily led to overfill; and (2) the limited distribution of these plants, in combination with their rapid depletion by grazing geese. These latter factors led to an unequal allocation among individual geese. Most Plantago and Triglochin was obtained by dominant pairs within the flocks. The high quality of Puccinellia allowed geese to gain mass in spring, but the metabolizable energy of this plant species declined during the staging period, and Plantago and Triglochin increased in importance in supplying the geese with components with which to build their body reserves. The timing of the onset of spring growth of the various food species differed between years, and plant phenology was shown to have a profound effect on the final body reserves of the geese.

Key words

Branta bernicla Diet Food depletion Competition Phenology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jouke Prop
    • 1
  • Charlotte Deerenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoological LaboratoryUniversity of GroningenHarenThe Netherlands

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