Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 61–70 | Cite as

Comparing dietary preferences of Bufflehead ducklings in Western Canada through gut content and stable isotope analysis

Original Paper


Aquatic invertebrates are essential for duckling growth and development. We present results on the trophic status and dietary analysis of Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) ducklings from the boreal breeding grounds of western Canada. We estimated dietary preference by comparing invertebrates found in Bufflehead diets to those identified in standardized dip net samples at their wetland feeding sites. Stable isotope ratios of Bufflehead and their prey were used as a second estimator of trophic position. Bufflehead ducklings preferentially foraged for larval Dytiscidae (predaceous diving beetles; 46% of total dietary biomass), Zygoptera larvae (damselflies; 14%) and non-Dytiscidae adult Coleoptera (5%; mainly Haliplidae). Results from stable isotope analyses supported these results; the separation between primary and secondary invertebrate consumers and ducklings was significant for all possible contrasts when considering nitrogen isotope ratios (Tukey HSD; P < 0.001). We iteratively explored all possible combinations of δ15N and δ13C data to generate a proportional range over which each food source may contribute to Bufflehead stable isotope signatures; these results suggested larval Zygoptera and larval Dytiscidae figure prominently in diets when accounting for isotope fractionation. The incorporation of prey availability into the metric of dietary preference, as opposed to the tabulation of ingested items alone, reduces the importance of invertebrate groups such as adult Dytiscidae as highlighted in previous studies.


Alberta Diet analysis Dytiscidae Western boreal forest Waterfowl Zygoptera 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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