Food Habits of Diving Ducks in the Carolinas

Food habits analyses were conducted on 264 diving ducks (7 species) from North and South Carolina during the 1970's. The Baltic clam (Macoma balthica) was the predominant food among canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) from the Pamlico River area, whereas sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) predominated in birds from impoundments in North and South Carolina. Shoalgrass (Halodule beaudettei) formed 100% of the gullet food and 99% of the gizzard food in redheads (Aythya americana) from Pamlico Sound. Lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) in North Carolina had fed predominantly on mollusks (Mulinia lateralis and Rangia cuneata), whereas widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) was the predominant food in birds from South Carolina. In North Carolina, ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) fed mainly on vegetation, and greater scaup (Aythya marila), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) fed mainly on Mulinia lateralis. Food habits data from this study when compared with historical food habits of these species indicate that most diving duck species were feeding more on invertebrates and less on submerged aquatic vegetation than in the past. North and South Carolina have a diverse food supply and appear to offer waterfowl adequate wintering habitat based on these food habits studies. Present trends in wintering habitat, however, could adversely affect diving duck populations in the future.

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