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Body composition and weight dynamics of wintering greater white-fronted geese

January 1, 1989

Adult greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) wintering in southern Oregon and California increased or maintained body weight in autumn, lost weight from autumn through winter, and rapidly increased in weight before spring migration in late April. We documented significant annual differences in body weights for both sexes. We related seasonal changes in body weight to changes in lipid levels, which were lowest (12-13% of wet wt in M and F) in mid-March and highest in late April (24% in F). Greater white-fronted geese maintained lipid levels during winter similar to those reported for large subspecies of Canada geese (Branta canadensis), and greater than those reported for small subspecies of Canada geese and other small species of geese. Protein content of carcasses varied significantly in females; i.e., lowest in early October and highest in late October and late April. Differences among species in patterns of weight change and body composition during winter seem to be related to social organization, body size, food type, and foraging behavior. Females left spring staging areas weighing relatively less than most other species of geese and may have benefited from foraging opportunities on the nesting grounds.

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