Aquatically foraging Bewick’s Swans Cygnus bewickii have been repeatedly reported to be accompanied by diving ducks, but the exact nature of this relationship is unclear. Based on field observations, we found a strong correlation between the number of foraging swans and the number of foraging Common Pochards Aythya ferina and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula at our study site (Lauwersmeer, the Netherlands), with the median ratio being close to one diving duck per swan. To determine whether the association was kleptoparasitic or commensal, we measured in a series of experimental trials the instantaneous intake rates of Bewick’s Swans and Common Pochards when foraging alone and when foraging together. On average, pochards in company with a swan attained twice the instantaneous intake rate as compared with foraging alone. This was mainly due to gleaning food items that floated away as a result of the swan’s trampling activity, and was not due to stealing: in fact, food intake rates of swans were not affected by the presence of a pochard.
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date2012

ID: 97436