Translator Disclaimer
1 January 1994 Arthropods and Seeds are not Sufficient as Calcium Sources for Shell Formation and Skeletal Growth in Passerines
Author Affiliations +

We examined to what extent insectivorous and granivorous passerines can obtain the calcium for shell formation and growth of the skeleton from their normal food, and to what extent they depend on additional calcium-rich material, such as snail shells and calcareous grit. We determined the calcium content of forest arthropods and seeds on Ca-rich and Ca-poor soils and the calcium content of females, eggs and nestlings of the Great Tit, Parus major, and calculated the calcium budget for females and nestlings. We found that female Great Tits do not store calcium in their skeleton before egg-laying. Thus, all calcium needed for egg-laying must be collected during the laying period. Even on Ca-rich soils the calcium intake from arthropods or seeds covered only 5–10% of the Ca requirements. It is demonstrated that these results also apply to other passerines, with the exception of a few species that include woodlice (Isopoda) and millipedes (Diplopoda) in their diet. These arthropods contain 10–13% (dry matter) calcium; a hundred times more than other arthropods. However, most passerines need Ca-rich material, in addition to their normal food, to meet their calcium demand.



C.D. Ankney & D.M. Scott 1980. Changes in nutrient reserves and diet of breeding Brown-headed Cowbirds. Auk 97:684–696. Google Scholar


R. Berndt & I. Rapsch 1958. Materialien zur Kenntnis der Ernährungsweise des Trauerschnäppers im Kieferforst. Anz. Schädlungskunde 31:24–27. Google Scholar


P. Berthold 1976. Animalische und vegetabilische Ernährung omnivorer Singvogelarten: Nahrungsbevorzugung, Jahresperiodik der Nahrungswahl, physiologische und ökologische Bedeutung. J. Om. 117:145–209. Google Scholar


M. Betts 1955. The food of titmice in oak woodland. J. Anim. Ecol. 24(2):282–323. Google Scholar


L.W. Bilby & E.M. Widdowson 1971. Chemical composition of growth in nestling Blackbirds and Thrashes. Brit. J. Nutr. 25:127–134. Google Scholar


C. M. Blem 1978. The energetics of young Japanese Quail, Coturnix coturnix japonica. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 52A:219–223. Google Scholar


W. Bloom , M.A. Bloom & F.C. McLean 1941. Calcification and ossification: Medullary bone changes in the reproductive cycle of female pigeons. Anat. Rec. 81:443–475. Google Scholar


D. M. Bryant & K. R. Westerterp 1980. The energy budget of the House Martin (Delichon urbica). Ardea 68:91–102. Google Scholar


S. Cramp & C.M. Perrins (eds) 1993. Birds of the western Palearctic, vol. VII: Flycatchers to Shrikes. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Google Scholar


G. Creutz 1953. Schnecken als Nahrung von Singvogeln. Die Vogelwelt 74(2):52–54. Google Scholar


S. Daan , C Dijkstra , R. Drent & T. Meijer 1989. Food supply and the annual timing of avian reproduction. In: H. Quellet (ed) Acta XIX Congr. Int. Orn.: 392–407. Ottawa 1986.  Google Scholar


N. B. Davies & A. Lundberg 1985. The influence of food on the time budgets and timing of breeding of the Dunnock (Prunella modularis). Ibis 127:100–110 .  Google Scholar


B. Diehl 1971. Energy requirement in nestling and fledgling Red-backed Shrikes, Lanius collurio. Ekologia Polska 19:235–248. Google Scholar


R. H. Drent & S. Daan 1980. The prudent parent: Energetic adjustments in avian breeding. Ardea 68:225–252. Google Scholar


P.J. Drent & J.W. Woldendorp 1989. Acid rain and eggshells. Nature 339:431. Google Scholar


H. M. Edwards , J. E. Marion , H. L. Fuller & J. C. Driggers 1963. Studies on calcium requirements of broilers. Poult. Sci. 42:699–703. Google Scholar


R.J. Etches 1987. Calcium logistics in the laying hen. J. Nutr. 117:619–628. Google Scholar


V. M. Gavrilov 1974. Seasonal and daily variations of standard metabolic rate in passerine birds. In: R. L. Berne & V. E. Flint (eds) Materialy VI Vsesoyuznoï Konferentsii, Moscow: 134–136. Izdatel'stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta. Google Scholar


J. Gibb 1957. Food requirements and other observations on captive tits. Bird Study 4:207–215. Google Scholar


J.A. Gibb & M. Betts 1963. Food and food supply of nestling tits (Paridae) in Breckland Pine. J. Anim. Ecol. 32:489–533. Google Scholar


A. B. Gilbert 1983. Calcium and reproductive function in the hen. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 42:195–212. Google Scholar


D. Houston 1978. The effect of food quality on breeding strategy in Griffon Vultures (Gyps spp.). J. Zool., Lond. 186:175–184. Google Scholar


D. Houston , D. Donnan & P. Jones 1995. The source of nutrients required for egg production in Zebra Finches, Poephila guttata. J. of Zoology (in press). Google Scholar


S. Hurwitz & P. Griminger 1961. Partition of calcium and phosphorus excretion in the laying hen. Nature 189:759–760. Google Scholar


S. Hurwitz 1987. Effect of nutrition on egg quality. In: R.G. Wells & C.G. Belyavin (eds) 1987. Egg Quality - Current Problems and Recent Advances. Poultry Science Symposium 20, Butterworths, London: 235–254. Google Scholar


A. A. Inosemcev 1963. Food selection of birds and some causes of its variability. Ornithologyia 6:424–450. Google Scholar


P. J. Jones 1976. The utilization of calcareous grit by laying Quelea quelea. Ibis 118:575–576. Google Scholar


H. W. Kale 1965. Ecology and energetics of the Long billed Marsh Wren Telmatodytes palustris in Georgia salt marshes. Publ. Nutall Ornith. Club 5:11–42. Google Scholar


S. C. Kendeigh , V. R. Dolnik & V. M. Gavrilov 1977. Avian energetics. In: J. Pinowski & S. C. Kendeigh (eds) Granivorous birds in ecosystems. IBP, vol. 12:127–204. Cambridge Univ. Press. Google Scholar


S. C. Kendeigh & G. C. West 1965. Caloric values of plant seeds eaten by birds. Ecology 46:553–555. Google Scholar


J. K. Kirkwood 1983. A limit to metabolisable energy intake in mammals and birds. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 75A:13. Google Scholar


H. N. Kluyver 1950. Daily routines of the Great Tit, Parus m. major L. Ardea 38:99–135. Google Scholar


A. Kristin 1992. Trophische Beziehungen zwischen Singvögeln und Wirbellosen im Eichen-Buchenwald zur Brutzeit. Orn. Beob. 89:157–169. Google Scholar


L.E. Lanyon & W.R. Heald 1982. Magnesium, calcium, strontium and barium. In: A.L. Page , R.H. Miller & D.R. Keeney (eds.). Methods of soil analysis, 2nd ed. Agronomy 9:247–262. ASASSSA, Madison, Wisconsin. Google Scholar


S.F. MacLean 1974. Lemming bones as a source of calcium for arctic sandpipers (Calidris spp.). Ibis 116:552–557. Google Scholar


G.L. March & R. M. F. S. Sadleir 1975. Studies on the Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata) in British Columbia III. Seasonal changes in body weight and calcium distribution. Physiol. Zool. 48:49–56. Google Scholar


J. A. L. Mertens 1977. Thermal conditions for successful breeding in Great Tits (Parus major L.). I. Relation of growth and development of temperature regulation in nestling Great Tits. Oecologia (Berl.) 28:129. Google Scholar


P. Mongin & B. Sauveur 1974. Voluntary food and calcium intake by the laying hen. British Poultry Science 15:349–359. Google Scholar


R. Nager & A. J. Van Noordwijk 1992. Energetic limitations in the egg-laying period of Great Tits. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 249:259–263. Google Scholar


K. A. Nagy 1987. Field metabolic rate and food requirement scaling in mammals and birds. Ecol. Monogr. 57:111–128. Google Scholar


D. Nethersole Thompson 1975. Pine Crosbills. Berkhamsted. Norberg, R. Å. 1978. Energy content of some spiders and insects on branches of spruce (Picea abies) in winter; prey of certain passerine birds. Oikos 31:222–229. Google Scholar


M. Ojanen 1983. Composition of the eggs of the Great Tit (Parus major) and the Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). Ann. Zool. Fenn. 20:57–63. Google Scholar


M. Ojanen , M. Orell & R. A. Väisänen 1978. Egg and clutch sizes in four passerine species in northern Finland. Omis Fennica 55:60–68. Google Scholar


S. J. Ormerod , K. R. Bull, C. P. Cummins , S.J. Tyler & J. A. Vickery 1988. Egg mass and shell thickness in Dippers Cinclus cinclus in relation to stream acidity in Wales and Scotland. Environ. Pollut. 55:107–121. Google Scholar


R. B. Payne 1972. Nuts, bones and a nesting of Red Crossbills in the Panamint Mountains, California. Condor 74:485–486. Google Scholar


C.M. Perrins 1970. The timing of birds' breeding seasons. Ibis 112:242–255. Google Scholar


C.M. Perrins 1979. British Tits. Collins, London. Google Scholar


C.A. Pfeiffer , A. Kirschbaum & W.V. Gardner 1940. Relation of estrogen to ossification and levels of serum calcium and lipoid in the English Sparrow, Passer domesticus. Yale J. Biol. Med. 13:279–284. Google Scholar


B. Pinowska & K. Krasnicki 1985. Changes in the content of magnesium, copper, calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus in female House Sparrows during the breeding cycle. Ardea 73:175–182. Google Scholar


D. E. Reichle , H. Shanks & D. A. Crossley Jr . 1969. Calcium, potassium and sodium content of forest floor arthropods. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 62:57–62. Google Scholar


R. E. Ricklefs 1974. Energetics of reproduction in birds. In: R. A. Paynter (ed.) Avian energetics. Nutall Ornith. Club, Cambridge. Google Scholar


K.C. Sadler 1961. Grit selectivity by the female pheasant during egg production. J. Wildl. Mgmt. 25:339–341. Google Scholar


L. Schifferli 1977. Bruchstücke von Schneckenhäuschen als Calciumquelle für die Bildung der Eischale beim Haussperling Passer domesticus. Orn. Beob. 74:71–74. Google Scholar


L. Schifferli 1979. Das Skelettgewicht des Haussperlings Passer domesticus während der Eiablage und bei Jungvögeln nach dem Ausfliegen. Orn. Beob. 76:289–292. Google Scholar


L. Schroeder 1977. Distribution of caloric densities among larvae feeding on Black Cherry Tree leaves. Oecologia 29:219–222. Google Scholar


G. Seifert 1961. Die Tausendfüssler. Die Neue BrehmBücherei. A. Ziemsen Verlag, Wittenberg Lutherstad. Google Scholar


K. Simkiss 1967. Calcium in reproductive physiology. Chapman & Hall. Google Scholar


K. Simkiss 1975. Calcium and avian reproduction. Symp. Zool. Soc. Lond. 35:307–337. Google Scholar


P.C.M. Simons 1986. Major minerals in the nutrition of poultry. In: C. Fisher & K.N. Boorman 91986). Nutrient Requirements of Poultry and Nutritional Research. Poultry Science Symposium 19, Butter worths, London: pp. 141–154. Google Scholar


P. D. Sturkie 1965. Avian physiology. Cornell Univ. Press. Google Scholar


G. Susic 1981. Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra L. 1758) feeding on mortar in a wall. Larus 33/35:197–200. Google Scholar


T. G. Taylor 1962. Calcium absorption and metabolism in the laying hen. In: J. T. Morgan & D. Lewis (eds) Nutrition of pigs and poultry: pp . 148–157. Butterworths, London. Google Scholar


T. G. Taylor & D. A. Stringer 1965. Eggshell formation and skeletal metabolism. In: P.D. Sturkie (ed.) Avian physiology: pp. 485–514. Cornell Univ. Press. Google Scholar


E. Thaler 1979. Das Aktionsystem von Winter- und Sommergoldhänchen (Regulus regulus, R. ignicapillus) und deren ethologische Differenzierung. Bonn. Zool. Monogr., nr. 12. Google Scholar


M. G. Turner 1966. Blue Tit feeding mate with snail shell. Brit. Birds 59:78. Google Scholar


A. K. Turner 1982. Timing of laying by Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and Sand Martins (Riparia riparia). J. Anim. Ecol. 51:29–46. Google Scholar


M.R. Urist & N.M. Deutsch 1960. Osteoporosis in the laying hen. Endocrinology 66(3): 377–391. Google Scholar


J. H. Van Balen 1973. A comparative study of the breeding ecology of the Great Tit Parus major in different habitats. Ardea 61:1–93. Google Scholar


G. E. Walsberg 1983. Avian ecological energetics. In: D. S. Earner , J. R. King ,& K. C. Parkes (eds) Avian Biology, vol. 7:161–220. Acad. Press, New York. Google Scholar


I. Wäreborn 1969. Land molluscs and their environments in an oligotrophic area in southern Sweden. Oikos 20:461–479. Google Scholar


I. Wäreborn 1970. Environmental factors influencing the distribution of land molluscs of an oligotrophic area in southern Sweden. Oikos 21:285–291. Google Scholar


K. R. Westerterp 1973. The energy budget of the nestling Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, a field study. Ardea 61:137–158. Google Scholar
Jaap Graveland and Teun Van Gijzen "Arthropods and Seeds are not Sufficient as Calcium Sources for Shell Formation and Skeletal Growth in Passerines," Ardea 55(1–2), 299-314, (1 January 1994).
Accepted: 22 June 1994; Published: 1 January 1994

Back to Top