, Volume 97, Issue 7, pp 673–682 | Cite as

Habitat selection by breeding waterbirds at ponds with size-structured fish populations

  • Janusz Kloskowski
  • Marek Nieoczym
  • Marcin Polak
  • Piotr Pitucha
Original Paper


Fish may significantly affect habitat use by birds, either as their prey or as competitors. Fish communities are often distinctly size-structured, but the consequences for waterbird assemblages remain poorly understood. We examined the effects of size structure of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) cohorts together with other biotic and abiotic pond characteristics on the distribution of breeding waterbirds in a seminatural system of monocultured ponds, where three fish age classes were separately stocked. Fish age corresponded to a distinct fish size gradient. Fish age and total biomass, macroinvertebrate and amphibian abundance, and emergent vegetation best explained the differences in bird density between ponds. Abundance of animal prey other than fish (aquatic macroinvertebrates and larval amphibians) decreased with increasing carp age in the ponds. Densities of ducks and smaller grebes were strongly negatively associated with fish age/size gradient. The largest of the grebes, the piscivorous great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), was the only species that preferred ponds with medium-sized fish and was positively associated with total fish biomass. Habitat selection by bitterns and most rallids was instead strongly influenced by the relative amount of emergent vegetation cover in the ponds. Our results show that fish size structure may be an important cue for breeding habitat choice and a factor affording an opportunity for niche diversification in avian communities.


Common carp Distant competition Habitat selection Size-structured interactions Waterbird assemblages 



We are grateful to the fish farmers (M. Filipiak, J. Orzepowski, and M. Sagan) for their help and for regular access to the ponds. Comments from three anonymous referees greatly improved the manuscript. This research was funded by grants from the State Committee for Scientific Research (KBN 6 PO4F 066 20 and 3 PO4F 036 23).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janusz Kloskowski
    • 1
  • Marek Nieoczym
    • 2
  • Marcin Polak
    • 1
  • Piotr Pitucha
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Nature Conservation, Institute of BiologyMaria Curie-Skłodowska UniversityLublinPoland
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Life SciencesLublinPoland
  3. 3.Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in LublinLublinPoland

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