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Birds and Mammals in Aquatic Ecosystems. ENV 311/ EEB 320 Winter 2007. Why Birds?. Important predators of invertebrates, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in aquatic ecosystems Major vectors for transport of plants and wingless invertebrates

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birds and mammals in aquatic ecosystems

Birds and Mammals in Aquatic Ecosystems

ENV 311/ EEB 320

Winter 2007

why birds
Why Birds?
  • Important predators of invertebrates, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in aquatic ecosystems
  • Major vectors for transport of plants and wingless invertebrates
  • Interesting and ubiquitous members of aquatic communities
  • Along with fish, enjoy fairly broad support from the public
    • Good way to generate interest in habitat preservation/restoration
family gaviidae gavia
Family GaviidaeGavia
  • Loons
  • Habitat: mainly northern lakes
  • Notes:
    • Divers: feed mainly on fish
    • Very distinctive vocalizations
      • Alarm call
      • Short hoot
    • 1 breeding sp. in MI: common loon (Gavia immer)

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

family ardeidae
Family Ardeidae
  • Bitterns, Herons, and Egrets
  • Habitat: Open wetlands, lakeshores, rivers
  • Notes:
    • Often seen stalking prey: feed mainly on fish, also amphibians and invertebrates
    • Egrets/herons often build nests in shrubs/trees and may be colonial breeders
    • Bitterns prefer dense emergent vegetation and tend to be solitary

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

family ardeidae bitterns
Family ArdeidaeBitterns
  • 2 spp. in Michigan
  • American bittern:
    • Call distinctive—like a piledriver in a puddle?
    • Secretive, often strikes vertical pose to blend in with vegetation
family ardeidae herons and egrets
Family ArdeidaeHerons and Egrets
  • 6 spp regularly found in MI
  • Less secretive and more easily spotted than bitterns
  • Egrets are white, herons may be various colors

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

family accipitridae
Family Accipitridae

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

  • Hawks and eagles
  • 2 spp. that are most often found in MI aquatic ecosystems are:
    • Bald eagle (above)
    • Northern harrier (below)
  • Bald eagle found along rivers/wetlands, often preys on fish
    • Making strong recovery from very low numbers for last half of 20th century
  • Northern harrier often hovers over open wetlands, preys on small mammals, amphibians and other birds
family pandionidae pandion haliaetus
Family PandionidaePandion haliaetus

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

  • Osprey (1 sp.)
  • Habitat: Mainly rivers and wooded edges of lakes
  • Notes:
    • Build enormous nests of sticks high off the ground, 3-5 ft in diameter
    • Feed mainly on fish but cannot swim—have been known to drown if they hook into too large a fish
    • As with many raptors, numbers have risen since elimination of DDT from the food web
family laridae
Family Laridae
  • Gulls and terns
  • Ring-billed gull

Common tern

  • Gulls tend to be thicker-billed and stouter; frequently walk
    • Facultative predator/scavenger
  • Terns are sleeker, designed for capturing fast prey
    • More predatory on small fish and invertebrates
  • May build nests on rocky shores, islands or floating mats of vegetation

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

family anatidae
Family Anatidae
  • Ducks, geese and swans
  • Very diverse aquatic family
  • Habitats vary, from wooded wetlands and rivers (wood duck) to open water (greater scaup)
  • Notes:
    • Many feed by dabbling, i.e., sifting through mud for nutritious invertebrates, seeds, shoots, etc.
    • Others are active predators of fish (e.g. mergansers)
    • Many valued by hunters—benefit (?) from conservation efforts
    • Webbed feet for swimming

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web

family anatidae ducks
Family AnatidaeDucks
  • Short-necked, often with colored primary feathers
    • Most species migratory
    • Most have sexually dimorphic coloration
  • Mallard (Anas platyrhyncos) very common and spreading in NA
  • Am. black duck (Anas rubipres) very closely related to mallard and disappearing due to interbreeding
family anatidae geese and swans
Family AnatidaeGeese and Swans
  • Longer-necked and usually larger than ducks
  • Mainly migratory--most prefer more northerly breeding ranges than ducks
  • Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is very common near water/grass in MI
family gruidae grus canadensis
Family GruidaeGrus canadensis
  • Sandhill crane
  • Habitat: migratory; wetlands critical for breeding success; past population declines mirrored wetland loss
  • Notes:
    • Omnivorous, but notorious for eating waterfowl eggs during breeding season
    • Elaborate mating dance
    • Social, gregarious bird
family alcedinidae ceryle alcyon
Family AlcedinidaeCeryle alcyon
  • Belted kingfisher
  • Habitat: waterways and lakes with available perches and abundant food
  • Notes:
    • Nest in 1-2 meter long tunnels, often in riverbanks
    • Voracious predator of small fish
    • Call is rattling
family charadriidae
Family Charadriidae
  • Sandpipers and phalaropes
  • Habitat: shores of lakes, wetlands, large rivers
  • Notes:
    • Speciose group (18 spp. commonly migrate through or reside in MI)
    • Size ranges from sparrow-sized to length of a small hawk
    • Many have very long legs/bills for wading and deep probing of the substrate for invertebrates
  • Although most mammals will periodically visit aquatic ecosystems, only a few species are strongly associated with water in MI
    • Some are voracious predators of fish and mollusks
    • Others may construct large structures and significantly alter hydraulics of flowing waters
    • All have physiological adaptations, such as webbed feet and waterproof fur that allow them to thrive in aquatic ecosystems
castor canadensis
Castor canadensis
  • American beaver
  • Notes:
    • Noted for its ability to construct wood/earth dams, altering flow to suit its needs
    • Uses large, gnawing teeth to fell trees
      • Consumes nutritious bark/buds
      • Uses wood for dam- building
    • Characterized by large size (may reach 35 kg) waterproof coat and large, paddle-like tail
    • Trapped to near dangerous levels in 19th century; now common in most of NA
lutra canadensis
Lutra canadensis
  • River otter
  • Notes:
    • Intelligent and very adaptable predator—one of the few natural predators of snapping turtles
    • Prefers deep, relatively isolated rivers with healthy fish populations
    • Highly adapted for speed in water: sleek, with fully webbed feet
mustela vison
Mustela vison
  • Mink
  • Notes:
    • Well-adapted for hunting on land and in water—can swim well and run fast
    • Feeds on small mammals, fish, amphibians, birds
    • As with other aquatic animals, may take up residence in old muskrat or beaver lodges
ondatra zibethicus
Ondatra zibethicus
  • Muskrat
  • Notes:
    • Looks most like a small beaver, but can be distinguished by its thick rat-like tail
    • Builds easily recognizable lodges in shallow wetlands
    • Mainly herbivorous but will take crustaceans and mollusks as well