We analyzed carcass lipid, ash and protein dynamics of male and female Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago gallinago delicata) from arrival on wintering areas in coastal Texas until departure for spring migration. In addition, we analyzed seasonal variation in mass and length of digestive organs to document changes that may increase gut capacity and digestive efficiency of migrating and wintering Wilson's Snipe. Lipid reserves of female snipe remained relatively stable from fall to winter, whereas body protein increased by 3% during this time. Females catabolized lipids and protein prior to spring migration. Conversely, lipid reserves of male snipe increased by 44% from fall to winter and were at least maintained from winter to spring. Furthermore, we observed a trend (P = 0.021) for increasing lipid content in males during spring. Because male snipe accumulate fat reserves prior to spring departure, it appears they employ a “time-selected” strategy for spring migration. In contrast, female snipe migrate later in spring when food may be more available. Thus, females apparently rely more on dietary nutrients acquired at migration stopover sites to and likely employ an “energy-selected” strategy for spring migration. Gut morphology of male snipe remained unchanged throughout the non-breeding period whereas length of small intestine, caeca, and large intestine decreased by 6%, 8% and 8%, respectively from fall to winter in females. Small intestine length increased by 6% in females from winter to spring.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1