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Role of the Three-Spined Stickleback Gasterosteus Aculeatus L. in the Food Ecology of the Spoonbill Platalea Leucorodia

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In a five year study (1985-1989), the importance of the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus to the spoonbill, Platalea leucorodia was elucidated. Both species migrate from distant areas to meet in polder areas as prey and predator, in the Netherlands. In the spring, spoonbills fly all the way from Afrika and the south of Spain to breed in colonies. As long as juvenile spoonbills are not able to fly, the demand for food is high, and the supply from the foraging areas is of vital importance. The availability of food in the foraging areas around one of the major spoonbill colonies was studied. Different food situations (prey items, prey density) were judged by means of the average food intake rate. Food situations in which prey items weigh over 2 gram, turned out to be most favourable. Prcy density was of less importance. Anadromous three-spined sticklebacks, migrate from the sea in the spring to breed in shallow ditches and back waters. Their body weight is about 2.5 gram which makes it an excellent prey for the spoonbill. Unfortunately, in the last decades, it has become very hard for the anadromous stickleback to migrate into polder areas. Modernisation of agriculture has led to a situation in which open connections between channels and polder area have disappeared. The presumed benefit of the anadromous stickleback for the spoonbill, was tested, by transporting 1,000 kilogram of anadromous sticklebacks to a polder area. The impact on the spoonbills was studied in a two year period. Since there was a distinct effect on the spoonbill, it was decided to design a fish ladder to enable anadromous sticklebacks to enter the polder again. The concept was tested in 1988. In 1989 a permanent construction was built.

Affiliations: 1: (Organization for the improvement of inland fisheries, P.O. Box 433, 3430 AK Nieuwegein, The Netherlands


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