A large number of beak deformities of unknown etiology have recently been reported in Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and other resident avian species in Alaska. We investigated the potential association between diet and beak deformities. We analyzed carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes in whole blood of Black-capped Chickadees captured at three semiurban sites in south-central Alaska. For dietary analysis, we included natural foods (arthropods, seeds, and berries) and anthropogenic items commonly provided in bird feeders (sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and suet). Blood samples from individuals with beak deformities exhibited lower δ15N values and more variable δ13C values than birds with normal beaks. Isotopic values of blood also differed by location for both carbon and nitrogen, but we did not detect a difference in natural dietary items across the three sites. Contributions of individual diet items differed between birds with and without beak deformities, a pattern that likely reflected reduced function of the beak. Affected birds generally consumed fewer arthropods and sunflower seeds and more peanut butter and natural seeds and berries. Although some individuals with beak deformities relied heavily on feeder foods, we did not find evidence of an anthropogenic food source shared by all affected birds. In addition, dietary differences were most pronounced for moderately to severely affected birds, which suggests that these differences are more likely to be a consequence than a cause of deformities.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 129 • No. 3