HUNTING BEHAVIOR, PREY SELECTION, AND ENERGETICS OF SNAIL KITES IN GUYANA: CONSUMER CHOICE BY A SPECIALIST

Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) Science Article 5

abstract

The hunting behavior, snail size selection, and time-activity patterns of non-breeding Snail Kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis sociabilis) were studied in Guyana rice fields. Kites spent 62% of the photoperiod perching, 19% foraging, 13% in maintenance activities, and 6% flying. As the day progressed, the percentage of daylight hours spent perching increased significantly, while foraging decreased significantly. Kites successfully captured and ingested Pomacea snails in 78% of the foraging bouts observed. The mode of hunting was evenly split between coursing (50.7%) and still-hunting (49.3%). Searching and returning times were related to time of day, as significantly more coursing hunts and still-hunts occurred in mornings and late afternoons, respectively. Prey handling time was the most time-consuming component of a foraging bout. Time spent searching for prey, returning, or handling prey was not related to snail size. The size distribution of captured snails differed significantly from that of available snails; kites selected more medium snails and fewer small snails and took large snails in equal frequency to that at which large snails were available. Kites captured the same-sized snails when coursing as when still-hunting. As rice grew, kite utilization of rice fields declined, and the frequency of still-hunting decreased while course-hunting attempts increased. The daily caloric intake of kites was estimated to be 104.2 kcal, the daily energy expenditure 85.7 kcal. Results are discussed in relation to consumer choices of specialists. The most important decision a foraging Snail Kite may make is what patch to search in and how long to search before abandoning patches.

STEVEN R. BEISSINGER, The Auk 100:84-92 January 1983

Download article


Leave a Reply