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Time allocation by Greater White-fronted Geese: Influence of diet, energy reserves and predation

January 1, 1992

I determined the amount of time Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) allocated to various activities from September to May, 1980-1982 at their primary wintering areas in the Pacific Flyway of North America. The length of time spent on roosts during the day was positively correlated to day length. Geese at roost sites spent the majority of their time sleeping (24-46%), alert (17-40%), walking or swimming (6-24%), and in comfort behaviors (3-25%). The amount of time geese fed each day varied little from early autumn to late spring (4.5-4.9 hr), except during mid-winter when minimum temperatures were below freezing (3.9 hr), and immediately before migration in spring (6.3 hr). The proportion of time devoted to feeding and alert behavior, the two most dominant activities at field sites, varied significantly among seasons and locations. The amount of time geese were actively engaged in foraging each season was more dependent on feeding intensity than the amount of time spent at foraging sites (fields), and varied almost three-fold, from 1.8 hr during late winter to 5.1 hr during late spring. Geese fed in closer proximity to conspecifics, were more frequently disturbed, and spent less time feeding during the hunting season. Exploitation of high energy foods and catabolism of substantial energy reserves probably enabled geese to minimize foraging time during periods of harsh weather and high predation pressure. Seasonal variation in the proportion of time spent feeding corresponded closely to changes in body mass. Greater White-fronted Geese wintering in the Pacific Flyway spent substantially less time feeding than they do in Europe, as geese in California fed primarily on high energy cereal grains, while in Europe they subsist on green vegetation which has relatively less digestible energy than cereal grains.

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