Date of Award

8-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Jodice, Patrick G.R.

Committee Member

Childress , Michael

Committee Member

Sanders , Felicia

Abstract

During the nonbreeding season, the Cape Romain Region of South Carolina supports ca. one-sixth of the total population of the eastern race (palliatus) of the American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), which consists of only ca. 11,000 individuals and appears to be declining. I compared the density, size, and orientation of the primary prey, Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and the foraging behaviors of adult American Oystercatchers among the three largest bays in the Cape Romain Region that American Oystercatchers used as foraging areas. Results indicated that prey size, prey orientation, and the foraging behaviors of American Oystercatchers differed among bays. Although American Oystercatchers appeared to have lower rates of energy intake in Bulls Bay compared to Sewee Bay and Copahee Sound, adult American Oystercatchers may have foraged in Bulls Bay during the nonbreeding season in order to occupy nesting territories, which existed in Bulls Bay but not in Sewee Bay or Copahee Sound. Copahee Sound and Sewee Bay appear to be important foraging areas for American Oystercatchers during the nonbreeding season, whereas Bulls Bay appears to be important to American Oystercatchers year-round. In addition to investigating the foraging behavior of adults, I compared the foraging proficiency of adult and immature American Oystercatchers in Copahee Sound. Results indicated that the amount of time devoted to specific foraging behaviors differed among age-classes; however, immature American Oystercatchers were able to achieve equivalent feeding rates compared to adults. The abundance of prey in Copahee Sound may have allowed immature oystercatchers to compensate for their slightly inferior prey handling skills compared to adults.

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