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Detection of earthworm prey by Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Onrust, J., Loonstra, A. H. J., Schmaltz, L. E., Verkuil, Y. I., Hooijmeijer, J. & Piersma, T., Jul-2017, In : Ibis. 159, 3, p. 647-656

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Ruff Philomachus pugnax staging in the Netherlands forage in agricultural grasslands, where they mainly eat earthworms (Lumbricidae). Food intake and the surface availability of earthworms were studied in dairy farmland of southwest Friesland in March-April 2011. Daily changes in earthworm availability were quantified by counting visible earthworms. No earthworms were seen on the surface during daytime, but their numbers sharply increased after sunset and remained high during the night. Nevertheless, intake rates of individual Ruff in different grasslands measured during daytime showed the typical Holling type II functional response relationship with the surfacing earthworm densities measured at night. Radiotagging of Ruff in spring 2007 revealed that most, if not all, feeding occurs during the day, with the Ruff assembling at shoreline roosts at night. This raises the question of why Ruff do not feed at night, if prey can be caught more easily than during daytime. In March-May 2013 we experimentally examined the visual and auditory sensory modalities used by Ruff to find and capture earthworms. Five males were kept in an indoor aviary and we recorded them individually foraging on trays with 10 earthworms mixed with soil under various standardized light and white noise conditions. The number of earthworms discovered and eaten by Ruff increased with light level, but only when white noise was played, suggesting that although they can detect earthworms by sight, Ruff also use auditory cues. We suggest that although surfacing numbers of earthworms are highest during the night, diurnal intake rates are probably sufficient to avoid nocturnal foraging on a resource that is more available but perhaps less detectable at that time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-656
JournalIbis
Volume159
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2017

    Keywords

  • Foraging, Lumbricidae, Predator-prey interactions, Sensory ecology, SOUTHWEST FRIESLAND, FEEDING STRATEGIES, SPRING MIGRATION, WADERS, ENVIRONMENT, SANDPIPER, ECOLOGY, NETHERLANDS, POPULATIONS, SHOREBIRDS

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