European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 1119–1129 | Cite as

Geographical and temporal patterns in the diet of pintail Anas acuta, wigeon Anas penelope, mallard Anas platyrhynchos and teal Anas crecca in the Western Palearctic

  • L. Dessborn
  • A. L. Brochet
  • J. Elmberg
  • P. Legagneux
  • M. Gauthier-Clerc
  • M. Guillemain


Dabbling ducks are important quarry species, and as a result, they are relatively well studied. Over the last century, considerable effort has been made to describe their diet and food requirements. In this review, we compile present knowledge about the diet of four widespread dabbling ducks (wigeon, pintail, mallard and teal) in the Western Palearctic. Previous diet research has a spatio-temporal bias towards autumn/winter and the western parts of Europe. The limited number of studies from the breeding season reveals an increase in invertebrates in the diet compared to other seasons, but with some differences between adults and ducklings. Adult ducks eat a larger proportion of benthic invertebrates, whereas ducklings feed relatively more on emerging invertebrates. The most important plant species (seeds) based on frequency occurrence was found to vary with a geographic gradient. Carex spp., Hordeum vulgare and Hippuris vulgaris are common in the diet of birds at northern latitudes, whereas taxa such as Oryza sativa, Potamogeton pectinatus and Scirpus spp. are common in the south. The reviewed studies are based on the contents of different parts of the digestive system and on a variety of methods to quantify food items. The variations in sampling techniques and shortage of articles from the breeding season and some geographic regions highlight the need for future studies. In the future, it is important to standardize sampling techniques to improve the possibility to compare studies and to obtain a more representative view of the diet of dabbling ducks in Europe.


Dabbling duck Food Europe 



We give our thanks to M. Sanchez and V. Schricke for kindly providing their own data. L. Dessborn and J. Elmberg were funded by grants V-98-04 and V-162-05 from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. A.-L. Brochet was funded by a doctoral grant from the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, with additional funding from a research agreement between ONCFS, the Tour du Valat, Laboratoire de Biométrie et de Biologie Evolutive (UMR 5558 CNRS Université Lyon 1) and the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC).

Supplementary material

10344_2011_577_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
Appendix 1 Reviewed articles including quantitative data on wigeon diet (DOC 50 kb)
10344_2011_577_MOESM2_ESM.doc (104 kb)
Appendix 2 Reviewed articles including quantitative data on mallard diet (DOC 103 kb)
10344_2011_577_MOESM3_ESM.doc (84 kb)
Appendix 3 Reviewed articles including quantitative data on teal diet (DOC 84 kb)
10344_2011_577_MOESM4_ESM.doc (52 kb)
Appendix 4 Reviewed articles including quantitative data on pintail diet (DOC 52 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Dessborn
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. L. Brochet
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. Elmberg
    • 1
  • P. Legagneux
    • 5
    • 6
  • M. Gauthier-Clerc
    • 4
  • M. Guillemain
    • 3
  1. 1.Aquatic Biology and ChemistryKristianstad UniversityKristianstadSweden
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental StudiesSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  3. 3.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune SauvageCNERA Avifaune Migratrice, La Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  4. 4.Centre de Recherche de la Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  5. 5.Département de Biologie and Centre d’Études NordiquesPavillon Vachon Université LavalQuébecCanada
  6. 6.Département de Biologie and Centre d’Études NordiquesCentre d’Études Biologiques de ChizéBeauvoir sur NiortFrance

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