Differences in the diet of breeding Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis in an inland colony: the effect of years, breeding stages and locations within the colony

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A study of the diet of the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis (fish species and size) in (1) different seasons (years), (2) breeding stages (incubation and chick rearing), and (3) breeding areas (center and edge) in the colony in the Dzierżno-Duże Reservoir (southern Poland) was carried out. Overall, 147 pellets of the Great Cormorant were analysed. The low values of the indexes of Levin (Bi) and Shannon (H’) showed a limited trophic spectrum in the diet of the Great Cormorant. Roach (Rutilus rutilus) with a percentage index of relative importance (%IRI) of 62.89, perch (Perca fluviatilis) (%IRI = 22.63) and carp (Cyprinus carpio) (%IRI = 10.43), were the most common prey. Evident changes in the diet between 2003 and 2014, with less roach and more perch and ruffe in 2014 were found. They could be probably related to changes in the fish community. Differences in the food of cormorants between breeding stages reflected dietary requirements of the chicks. During the breeding season younger chicks require feeding with smaller fish than older chicks. The proportion of fish species found in the cormorant diet differed between the edge and the centre of the colony. We concluded that the impact of Great Cormorants on native fish assemblages may be dependent on the location within the colony, development state of the chicks and season, not just fish availability.

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