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Eggshell characteristics and calcium demands of a migratory songbird breeding in two new england forests
- TALIAFERRO, E. HANK, HOLMES, RICHARD T., BLUM, JOEL D.
- The Wilson bulletin 2001 v.113 no.1 pp. 94-100
- Lepidoptera, acid deposition, breeding, calcium, diet, egg shell, forest soils, ingestion, larvae, migratory behavior, oviposition, snails, songbirds, temperate forests, tropics, New England region, North America
- Calcium has been reported to be a limiting nutrient for eggshell production in birds living in areas of northern Europe suffering from heavy acid deposition. To investigate whether calcium might be limiting for birds in northeastern North America, a region also experiencing high and persistent acid precipitation, we analyzed eggshell characteristics and assessed calcium needs for eggshell production of a Neotropical migrant songbird, the Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens), in two forests in New England that differed in calcium content of their soils. We found no significant differences between the two regions in warbler eggshell mass, thickness, or in the concentration or the amount of calcium in eggshells. Moreover, calculations show that a diet of larval Lepidoptera, a major food source, is not a sufficient source of calcium for this species during egg laying, but that ingestion of eight average-sized (60 mg dry mass) snails during the egg-laying period would supply sufficient calcium for eggshell formation for a 4-egg clutch. Although current densities of snails suggest that they are not a limiting resource for birds at these sites, recent findings of declining calcium availability in New England forest soils suggest that calcium could in the future become a limiting factor for birds in northern temperate forests.