In many species, immature individuals are less proficient at foraging than are adults, and this difference may be especially critical during winter when survival can be at its minimum. We investigated the foraging proficiency of adult and immature American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) during the nonbreeding season. Oystercatchers forage on prey that must be handled with specialized skills, so age-related differences in foraging behavior may be expected. We found that adults spent more time searching than did immatures, a trend toward immatures taking longer to handle prey than did adults, and immatures more often handling prey unsuccessfully than did adults. Feeding rates and diet composition did not differ by age class. We posit that the immature birds traded off longer handling times with shorter searching times and that ultimately the abundant prey in the region may contribute to the ability of immature birds to feed at rates similar to those of adults.
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Vol. 112 • No. 4