Variation in White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) diet along a climatic gradient and across rural-to-urban landscapes in North Africa

Abstract

Assessing diet composition of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) breeding under North African conditions provides key information to understanding its trophic niche for conservation purpose. Since, climate controls productivities of foraging habitats and thus food availability for predators, this study examines how Storks’ diet parameters varied following a climate gradient along with rural-to-urban landscapes in north-eastern Algeria. Feeding strategies to cope with severe conditions were discussed in light of climate aridity and urbanization and how these influence reproduction, population dynamics and distribution. While invertebrate prey accounted for 94 % of ingested individuals, the biomass intake was dominated by chicken remains scavenged from rubbish dumps (67 %) and small mammals (14 %). Generalized linear models revealed that prey numbers varied significantly between climatic regions and landscapes types, but no significant differences were observed for other dietary parameters, including prey biomass. The study showed high dietary similarity between study climates and landscapes, mainly among rural and urban colonies located in semi-arid and sub-humid areas, which differed from those in suburban and arid climate. Rarefaction and extrapolation curves indicated that prey species richness in White Stork diets was expected to be higher in urban colonies located in sub-humid climate. Despite low prey species diversity in arid regions, the White Stork demonstrates a broad trophic niche, which could be due to supplementary feeding from human refuse. This study suggests that regardless of the climate or landscape, White Storks ensure a constant food intake, despite prey biomass fluctuations, by adapting their diet. Foraging in diverse habitats, including trash dumps, ensures a sufficiently balanced diet to meet nutritional requirements.

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Acknowledgments

I warmly thank Prof. Abdelkrim Si Bachir (University of Batna 2, Algeria) for his help in prey identification and for the valuable conceptual advices. I am grateful to Dr. Omar Hamarsheh (University of Notre Dame, USA) and Dr. Craig Allen (USGS, New Mexico, USA) for their diligent copy editing of the manuscript. Many thanks extend to the field editor and the two reviewers for their constructive comments that greatly improved the quality of the paper.

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Table 6 Location, human population size, climatic and agricultural characteristics of study colonies of the White Stork in northeastern Algeria (North Africa)

Table 6 Location, human population size, climatic and agricultural characteristics of study colonies of the White Stork in northeastern Algeria (North Africa)

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Chenchouni, H. Variation in White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) diet along a climatic gradient and across rural-to-urban landscapes in North Africa. Int J Biometeorol 61, 549–564 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-016-1232-x

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Keywords

  • White Stork Ciconia ciconia
  • Diet composition
  • Feeding ecology
  • Trophic niche
  • Drylands
  • Rubbish dumps