In an effort to reduce goose depredation at a traditional spring migratory stopover site, private landowners implemented a coordinated hazing plan to scare Aleutian cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia) from private lands to adjacent public pastures that were cultivated and set aside specifically for geese. Coincidentally, some Aleutian geese began using a new stopover site 150 km farther south in their spring migratory range; numbers at the new site continue to increase. We tested the idea that when their ability to acquire resources deteriorates geese are likely to seek improved foraging conditions, especially during spring migration when individuals strive to maximize nutrient stores and minimize energy expenditure. We quantified measures of goose foraging performance in traditional and new spring staging sites by calculating foraging opportunity, foraging effort, body condition, and daily energy expenditure. Geese staging at the site with higher levels of human disturbance had less foraging opportunity and, despite increased foraging effort and more nutritious food-plants at the site, birds there experienced an elevated energy expenditure and poorer body condition than birds at the new stopover site. Reduced foraging time and increased energy expenditure at the traditional spring staging site may have triggered the colonization process. Suitability assessment of habitat for migratory geese should include measures of foraging opportunity, disturbance risks, and daily energy expenditure in addition to quantity and quality of foods.
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Vol. 73 • No. 3