Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla (L., 1766)) that migrate through the upper Bay of Fundy, Canada, depend on a rich food supply to fuel their continued migration. Although past studies have reported a diet dominated by the amphipod Corophium volutator (Pallas, 1766), an animal rich in n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), recent evidence suggests that sandpiper diets are broad. This is beneficial in that it allows Semipalmated Sandpipers to respond to a changing food base, but quality of food is also important. PUFAs are important in providing the energy required by migrating birds and may play a role in migratory preparation. We assessed fatty acid (FA) concentrations and proportions in three common food items. We found that polychaetes should adequately meet the needs of migrating sandpipers in terms of FA composition. Concentrations of FAs in biofilm were low, but proportionally, n–3 PUFAs were well represented, particularly in biofilm collected in Shepody Bay, where it forms a substantial part of the sandpiper diet. Therefore, provided that birds can consume a sufficient volume of biofilm, it is also probably a suitable source of essential FAs. Our results suggest that Semipalmated Sandpipers in the Bay of Fundy can meet their FA needs with a variety of dietary options.

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Keywords Bay of fundy, Biofilm, Calidris pusilla, Corophium volutator, Diet flexibility, Fatty acid, PUFA, Semipalmated sandpiper
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Journal Canadian Journal of Zoology
Quinn, J.T. (J. T.), Hamilton, D.J. (D. J.), & Hebert, C.E. (2017). Fatty acid composition and concentration of alternative food of semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) in the upper bay of fundy, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 95(8), 565–573. doi:10.1139/cjz-2016-0246