Exploitation of intertidal Zostera species by Brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota): Why dig for your dinner?

R.G. Mather, Ian Montgomery, Alexander Portig

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Exploitation of intertidal Zostera spp by Pale-bellied Brent geese Branta bernicla hrota in Strangford Lough, Co. Down, was studied with respect to feeding method employed, plant parts exploited, the quality of the forage, and assimilation efficiency. Most Brent geese feeding activity involved digging behaviour, which, along with faecal analyses, indicated that birds were exploiting above (shoot) and below ground portions (rhizome) of the food plant. Nutritional information indicated that while rhizome was lower in overall energy, it contained more accessible energy in the form of water soluble carbohydrate and was lower in indigestible fibre than shoot. Feeding experiments indicated that Brent geese feeding on whole plants of Zostera noltii achieved 43% assimilation efficiency. Dig feeding of intertidal Zostera spp by Brent geese is likely to significantly increase the amount and quality of the forage available. Why dig feeding is not employed on all intertidal systems, and its potential effects on the food plants are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
JournalBiology and Environment-Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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