The Impact of Bird Predation on Marine and Estuarine Bivalve Populations: A Selective Review of Patterns and Underlying Causes

  • Patrick M. Meire
Part of the Nato ASI Series book series (volume 33)


Throughout the world, estuaries and coastal seas are important for many species of waders, ducks and geese either as a refueling site on migration or as wintering areas (see Davidson and Pienkowski 1987; Boyd and Pirot 1989 and references therein). For some species they also form important breeding sites. Birds are attracted to these habitats because of the huge amount of food present that can be exploited easily as the tidal flats are exposed at low water or in the shallow parts of the coastal seas. This food source includes plants (seaweeds and seagrasses) but consists mainly of benthic animals, the majority being molluscs, polychaetes and crustaceans.


Mytilus Edulis Macoma Balthica Common Eider Diving Duck Herring Gull 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alerstam T Gudmundsson GA Johannesson K (1992) Resources for long distance migration: intertidal exploitation of Littorina and Mytilus by Knots Calidris canutus in Iceland. Oikos 65:179–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. André Rosenberg R (1991) Adult-larval interactions in the suspension feeding bivalves Cerastoderma edule and Mya arenaria. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 71:227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin WP (1946) Clam catches Oystercatcher. Auk 63:589Google Scholar
  4. Baird D Milne H (1981) Energy flow in the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Est Coast Shelf Sci 13:455–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beauchamp G Guillemette M Ydenberg RC (1992) Prey selection while diving by common eiders, Somateria mollissima. Anim Behav 44:417–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beukema J (1989) Long-term changes in macrozoobenthic abundance on the tidal flats of the western Wadden Sea. Helgoländer Meersunters 43:405–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bustnes JO Erikstad KE (1990) Size selection of common mussels, Mytilus edulis, by common Eiders, Somateria molissima: energy maximization or shell weight minimization. Can J Zool 68:2280–2283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Butler PJ Woakes AJ (1979) Changes in heart rate and respiratory frequency during natural behaviour of ducks, with particular reference to diving. J Exp Biol 79:283–300Google Scholar
  9. Boyd H Pirot J-Y (1989) Flyways and reserve networks for water birds. IWRB Special publication No 9, SlimbridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown RA O’Connor RJ (1974) Some observations on the relationships between Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus L. and cockles Cardium edule L. in Strangford Lough. Irish Nat J 18:73–80Google Scholar
  11. Cantin M Bédard J Milne H (1974) The food and feeding of Common Eiders in the St. Lawrence estuary in summer. Can J Zool 52:319–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cayford J Goss-Custard JD (1990) Seasonal changes in the size selection of mussels, Mytilus edulis, by Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus: an optimality approach. Anim Behav 40:609–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Charnov EL (1976) Optimal foraging: attack strategy of a mantid. Am Nat 110:141–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cootam (1939) Food habits of North American diving ducks. US Dept of Agric Techn Bull 643:1–135Google Scholar
  15. Cramp S Simmons KEL (1977) Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: the birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol 1: Ostrich-Ducks. Oxford U Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Craeymeersch JA Herman PMJ Meire PM (1986) Secondary production of an intertidal mussel (Mytilus edulis) population in the Eastern Scheldt (S.W. Netherlands). Hydrobiologia 133:107–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davidson PE (1967) A study of the Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus L.) in relation to the fishery for cockles (Cardium edule L.) in Burry Inlet, South Wales. Fish Invest London Ser II Vol 25 7:1–28Google Scholar
  18. Davidson PE (1968) The Oystercatcher — a pest of shellfisheries. Pp. 174–180 in Murton RK and Wright EN (Eds) The problems of birds as pests. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Davidson PE (1971) Some foods taken by waders in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. Bird Study 18:177–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Davidson NC Pienkowski MW (1987) The conservation of international flyway populations of waders. Wader Study Group Bull 49 SupplementGoogle Scholar
  21. Davidson NC Wilson JR (1992) The migration system of Europeanwintering Knots Calidris canutus islandica. Wader Study Group Bull 64 (Supplement): 39–51Google Scholar
  22. Dekker R (1989) The macrozoobenthos of the subtidal western Dutch Wadden Sea. 1. Biomass and species richness. Neth J Sea Res 23: 57–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. De Leeuw JJ Van Eerden MR (1992) Size selection in diving Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula explained by differential handling of small and large mussels Dreissena polymorpha. Ardea 80:353–362Google Scholar
  24. Dewar JM (1922) Ability of the Oystercatcher to open oysters, and its bearing upon the history of the species. Br Birds 16:118–125Google Scholar
  25. Draulans D (1982) Foraging and size selection of mussels by the Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula. J Anim Ecol 51:943–956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Draulans D (1984) Sub-optimal mussel selection by Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula: test of a hypothesis. Anim Behav 32:1192–1196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Drinnan RE (1957) The winter feeding of the Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) on the edible cockle (Cardium edule). J Anim Ecol 26:441–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Drinnan RE (1958) The winter feeding of the Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) on the edible mussel (Mytilus edulis) in the Conway estuary, North Wales. Fish Invest London: Ser II Vol 22:1–15Google Scholar
  29. Dunstone N O’Connor RJ (1979) Optimal foraging in an amphibious mammal I. the aqualung effect. Anim Behav 32:1192–1196Google Scholar
  30. Dunthorn AA (1971) The predation of cultivated mussels by Eiders. Bird Study 18:107–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Durell SEA le Vdit Goss-Custard JD (1984) Prey selection within a size-class of mussels, Mytilus edulis by Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus. Anim Behav 32:1197–1203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Elliot M Ducrotoy J-Y (1991) Estuaries and coasts: spatial and temporal intercomparisons. Olson & Olson, Fredensborg, DenmarkGoogle Scholar
  33. Ens B (1982) Size selection in mussel-feeding Oystercatchers. Wader Study Group Bull 34:16–20Google Scholar
  34. Ens Goss-Custard JD (1984) Interference among Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, feeding on mussels, Mytilus edulis, on the Exe estuary. J Anim Ecol 53:217–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Feare CJ Summers RW (1985) Birds as predators on rocky shores. Pp. 249-164 in Moore PG and R Seed (Eds) The ecology of Rocky Coasts. Hodder & StonghtonGoogle Scholar
  36. Goss-Custard JD (1985) Foraging behaviour of wading birds and the carrying capacity of estuaries. Pp 169–188 in Sibly RM and Smith RH (eds) Behavioural Ecology. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  37. Goss-Custard JD Jones RE Newbery E (1977) The ecology of the Wash I. Distribution and diet of wading birds (Charadrii). J Appl Ecol 14:681–700Google Scholar
  38. Goss-Custard JD Le V Dit Durell SEA Ens BJ (1982) Individual differences in aggressiviness and food stealing among wintering Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus. Anim Behav 30:917–928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goss-Custard JD Le V Dit Durell SEA (1990) Bird behaviour and environmental planning: approaches in the study of wader populations. Ibis 132:273–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Goss-Custard JD McGrorty S Clarke R (in press) The impact of Oystercatchers on shellfish populations. ArdeaGoogle Scholar
  41. Guillemette M Ydenberg RC Himmelman JH (1992) The role of energy intake in prey and habitat selection of common eiders Somateria mollissima in winter: a risk-sensitive interpretation. J Anim Ecol 61:599–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hancock DA Urquhart AE (1965) The determination of natural mortality and its causes in an exploited population of cockles (Cardium edule L.). Fish Invest London Ser Vol 24 No 2:1–33Google Scholar
  43. Hartwick EB Blaylock W (1979) Winter ecology of a Black Oystercatcher population. Studies in Avian Biology 2:207-Dan Rev Game Biol 2:159-266Google Scholar
  44. Maron JL (1982) Shell-dropping behaviour of Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis). The Auk 99:565–569Google Scholar
  45. McGrorty S Clarke RT Reading CJ Goss-Custard JD (1990) Population dynamics of the mussel Mytilus edulis:density changes and regulation of the population in the Exe estuary, Devon. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 67:157–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meire PM (1987) Foraging behaviour of some wintering waders: prey selection and habitat distribution. Pp 215–237 in Kamil AC Krebs JR Pulliam HR (eds) Foraging behavior. Plenum Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Meire PM (1991) Effects of a substantial reduction in intertidal area on numbers and densities of waders. Acta XX Congr Inter Ornit: 2219-2227Google Scholar
  48. Meire PM (in press) Mussel selection in Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus): some ecological considerations. ArdeaGoogle Scholar
  49. Meire PM Ervynck A (1986) Are oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) selecting the most profitable mussels (Mytilus edulis)? Anim Behav 34:1427–1435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meire PM Schekkerman H Meininger PL (in press) Consumption by waterbirds in the Oosterschelde, SW Netherlands, in relation to carrying capacity and the benthic invertebrate community. HydrobiologiaGoogle Scholar
  51. Meissner J Brager S (1990) The feeding ecology of wintering Eiders Somateria mollissima and Common Scoters Melanitta nigra on the Baltic coast of Schleswig-Holstein, FRG. Wader Study Group Bull 58:10–12Google Scholar
  52. Milne H Dunnet GM (1972) Standing crop, productivity and trophic relations of the fauna of the Ythan estuary. Pp 86–106 in Barnes RSK and Green J (Eds) The estuarine environment. Applied Science Publishers, LondonGoogle Scholar
  53. Monval J-Y Pirot J-Y (1989) Results of the IWRB International Waterfowl Census 1967–1986. IWRB Special Publication No 8, SlimbridgeGoogle Scholar
  54. Nehls G (1989) Occurrence and food consumption of the Common Eider, Somateria mollissima, in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein. Helgoländer Meeresunters 43:385–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nilson L (1969) Food consumption of diving ducks wintering at 215Google Scholar
  56. Horwood JW Goss-Custard JD (1977) Predation by the oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus (L.), in relation to the cockle, Cerastoderma edule (L.), fishery in the Burry inlet, South Wales. J Appl Ecol 14:139–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Houston AI McNamara JM (1985) A general theory of central place foraging for single prey loaders. Theor Popul Biol 28:233–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Hughes RN (1970) Population dynamics of the bivalve Scrobicularia plana (Da Costa) on an intertidal mud-flat in North Wales. J Anim Ecol 39:333–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Hughes RN Griffiths CL (1988) Self-thinning in barnacles and mussels: the geometry of packing. Am Nat 132: 484–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Hulscher J (1982) The Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus as a predator of the bivalve Macoma balthica in the Dutch Wadden Sea. Ardea 70:89–152Google Scholar
  61. Hulscher J (1985) Growth and abrasion of the Oystercatcher bill in relation to dietary switches. Neth J Zool 35:124–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Hulscher J (1988) Mossel doodt Scholekster Haematopus ostralegus. Limosa 61:42–45Google Scholar
  63. Hulscher J Boates S Johnson R Swennen (in press) Diet of the Oystercatcher. In Goss-Custard JD (Ed) Behavioral Ecology of the Oystercatcher. Oxford U press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  64. Jukema J (1979) Eidereend Somateria mollissima als slachtoffer van mossel Mytilus edulis. Limosa 52:73–74Google Scholar
  65. Kautsky N (1981) On the trophic role of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis L.) in a Baltic coastal ecosystem and the fate of the organic matter produced by the mussels. Kieler Meeresforsh Sonderh 5:454–461Google Scholar
  66. Kent BW (1981) Prey dropped by Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) on soft sediments. Auk 98:350–354Google Scholar
  67. Laursen K (1989) Estimates of Sea Duck winter populations of the Western Palearctic. Dan Rev Game Biol 13(6):1–22Google Scholar
  68. Leopold MF Swennen De Bruijn LLM (1989) Experiments on selection of feeding site and food size in Oystercatchers, Haematopus ostralegus, of different social status. Neth J Sea Res 23:333–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Madsen FJ (1954) On the food habits of diving ducks in Denmark. the coast of South Sweden in relation to food resources. Oikos 20:128–135Google Scholar
  70. Nilson L (1972) Habitat selection, food choice, and feeding habits of diving ducks in coastal waters of South Sweden during the non-breeding season. Ornis Scand 3:55–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Norton Griffiths M (1967) Some ecological aspects of the feeding behaviour of the Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, on the edible mussel, Mytilus edulis? Ibis 109:412–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Nyström KGK Pehrsson (1988) Salinity as a constraint affecting food and habitat choice of mussel-feeding diving ducks Anatidae. Ibis 130:94–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Obert Michaelis H (1991) History and ecology of the mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) in the catchment area of a Wadden Sea tidal inlet. Pp 185–194 in Elliot M and Ducrotoy J-P (Eds) Estuaries and coasts: spatial and temporal intercomparisons. Olson & Olson, FredensborgGoogle Scholar
  74. O’Connor RJ Brown RA (1977) Prey depletion and foraging strategy in the oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. Oecologia 27:75–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Pehrsson (1976) Food and feeding grounds of the Goldeneye clangula (L.) on the Swedish west coast. Ornis Scand 7:91–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Piersma T Prokosch P Bredin D (1992) The migration system of Afro-Siberian Knots Calidris canutus canutus. Wader Study Group Bull 64 (Supplement): 52–63Google Scholar
  77. Player PV (1971) Food and feeding habits of the Common Eider at Seafield, Edinburgh, in winter. Wildfowl 22:100–106Google Scholar
  78. Raffaelli D Falcy V Galbraith (1990) Eider predation and the dynamics of mussel-bed communities. Pp 157–169 in Barnes M and Gibson R (Eds) Trophic Relationships in the Marine Environment. Aberdeen U Press, AberdeenGoogle Scholar
  79. Reading CJ McGrorty S (1978) Seasonal variations in the burying depth of Macoma balthica (L.) and its accessibility to wading birds. Est Coast Mar Sci 6:135–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Richardson H (1985) Availability of buried littleneck clams (Venerupis japonica) to Northwestern crows (Corvus corone). J Anim Ecol 54:443–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Richardson H Verbeek NA (1986) Diet selection and optimization by Northwestern Crows feeding on Japanese littleneck clams. Ecology 67:1219–1226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Richardson H Verbeek NA (1987) Diet selection by yearling Northwestern Crows (Corvus caurinus) feeding on littleneck clams (Venerupis japonica). The Auk 104:263–269Google Scholar
  83. Sanchez-Salazar ME Griffiths CL Seed R (1987) The interactive roles of predation and tidal elevation in structuring populations of the edible cockle, Cerastoderma edule. Est Coast Shelf Sci 25:245–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Seed R Brown RA (1978) Growth as a strategy for survival in two marine bivalves, Cerastoderma edule and Modiolus modiolus. J Anim Ecol 47:283–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Smit CJ Lambeck RHD Wolff WJ (1987) Threats to coastal wintering and staging areas for waders. Wader Study Group Bull 49 (Supplement): 105–113Google Scholar
  86. Spaans A (1971) On the feeding ecology of the herring gull (Larus argentatus Pont.) in the northern part of the Netherlands. Ardea 59:75–188Google Scholar
  87. Stephenson DW Krebs JR (1986) Foraging theory. Princeton U Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  88. Sutherland WJ (1982a) Do Oystercatchers select the most profitable cockles? Anim Behav 30:857–861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Sutherland WJ (1982b) Spatial variation in the predation of cockles by oystercatchers at Traeth Melynog, Anglesey II. The pattern of mortality. J Anim Ecol 51:491–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sutherland WJ Ens BJ (1987) The criteria determining the selection of mussels Mytilus edulis by Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus. Behaviour 103:187–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Swennen (1976) Populatie-structuur en voedsel van de Eidereend Somateria m. mollissima in de Nederlandse WaddenzArdea 64:311–371Google Scholar
  92. Swennen De Bruijn LLM Duiven P Leopold MF Marteijn ECL (1983) Differences in bill form of the Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus; a dynamic adaptation to specific foraging techniques. Neth J Sea Res 17:57–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Swennen Leopold MF Stock M (1985) Notes on growth and behaviour of the American razor clam Ensis directus in the Wadden Sea and the predation on it by birds. Helgoländer Meeresunters 39:255–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Swennen Nehls G Laursen (1989) Numbers and distribution of Eiders Somateria mollissima in the Wadden Sea. Neth J Sea Res 24:83–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Su M (1991) Self-thinning in some mussel populations (Mytilus edulis). Thesis University of BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  96. Vermeer K (1981) Food and populations of Surf Scoters in British Columbia. Wildfowl 32:107–116Google Scholar
  97. Ward D (1991) The size selection of clams by African. Black Oystercatchers and Kelp gulls. Ecology 72:513–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Westoby M (1984) The self-thinning rule. Adv Ecol Res 14:167–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Ydenberg RC (1988) Foraging by diving birds. Pp 1832–1842 in Ouellet H (Ed) Acta IX Congressus Internationalis Ornithologici. U of Ottawa Press, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  100. Ydenberg RC Forbes. LS (1988) Diving and foraging in the Western Grebe. Ornis Scand 19:129–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Ydenberg RC Guillemete M (1991) Diving and foraging in the Common Eider. Ornis Scand 22:349–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Zach R (1979) Shell dropping decision-making and optimal foraging in Northwestern Crows. Behaviour 58:106–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Zwarts L. (1986) Burying depth of the benthic bivalve Scrobicularia plana (Da Costa) in relation to siphoncropping. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 101:25–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Zwarts L Drent RH (1981) Prey depletion and the regulation of predator density: Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) feeding on mussels (Mytilus edulis). Pp 193–216 in Jones NV and Wolff WJ (eds) Feeding and survival strategies of estuarine organisms. Plenum Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Zwarts L Wanink JH (1984) How Oystercatchers and Curlew successively deplete clams. Pp 69–83 in Evans PR Goss-Custard JD Hale WG (eds) Coastal waders and wildfowl in winter. Cambridge U Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  106. Zwarts L Wanink JH (1985) Does an optimally foraging Oystercatcher obey the functional response? Oecologia 67:98–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Zwarts L Wanink JH (1989) Siphon size and burying depth in deposit-and suspension feeding benthic bivalves. Mar Biol 100:227–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Zwarts L Blomert A-M (1992) Why Knot (Calidris canutus) take medium-sized Macoma balthica when six prey species are available. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 83:113–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Zwarts L Blomert A-M Wanink JH (1992) Annual and seasonal variation in the food supply harvestable for Knot Calidris canutus staging in the Wadden Sea in late summer. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 83:128–139Google Scholar
  110. Zwarts L Cayford JT Hulscher JB Meire PM Triplet P (in press) Size Selection and intake rate in Oystercatcher. In Goss-Custard JD (Ed) Behavioral Ecology of the Oystercatcher. Oxford U press, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick M. Meire
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Nature ConservationHasseltBelgium

Personalised recommendations