Response of Long-Tailed Duck ( Clangula hyemalis) to the Change in the Main Prey Availability in Its Baltic Wintering Ground

Animals (Basel). 2022 Feb 1;12(3):355. doi: 10.3390/ani12030355.


The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is a vulnerable and declining species wintering in the Baltic Sea. The introduction of the invasive fish, the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), dramatically impacted the benthic macrofauna in hard-bottom habitats, while no significant changes occurred in soft-bottom benthic macrofauna. Therefore, we aimed to assess the extent to which the diet of long-tailed ducks changed in two different bottom types. We analysed the stomach content of 251 long-tailed ducks bycaught in gillnets from 2016 to 2020 in hard- and soft-bottom habitats and compared these results with those published by Žydelis and Ruškyte (2005). The results show that the long-tailed duck experienced a change in diet in hard-bottom habitats, shifting from the blue mussel to Hediste diversicolor, barnacles, and fish. In soft-bottom habitats, their diet remained similar over time and was based on H. diversicolor, a few bivalve species, and Saduria entomon. There was no evidence of significant differences in diet between sex or age. Despite the abovementioned changes in diet, the average body condition of the species did not change over time or between habitats. This confirms that long-tailed ducks have high feeding flexibility and quick species response to changes in prey availability, as they are capable of shifting their diet to new prey.

Keywords: Baltic Sea; Clangula hyemalis; benthic macrofauna; body condition; diet changes; feeding ecology; feeding selectivity; long-tailed duck; sea duck.