In expanding populations, individuals may increasingly be forced to use sites of relatively low quality. This process, named the “buffer effect,” was previously described for the Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa islandica) in its use of nonbreeding sites in Great Britain and of breeding areas in Iceland. On the basis of diet analyses from droppings and stable isotopes, we describe a new case for the expanding French wintering population of the Black-tailed Godwit, an expansion accompanied by a drastic change in feeding strategy. In the 1990s, Black-tailed Godwits started using intertidal mudflats at Ile de Ré, where they eat the rhizomes of seagrass (Zostera noltii) rather than the customary shellfish (Macoma balthica) eaten at both the preferred (initial) site (Aiguillon Bay) and the area occupied last (Yves to Marennes-Oléron bays). Individually color-marked godwits appeared faithful to both diet type and site, suggesting a cost of a change of strategy. This represents a first case of rhizome-feeding in shorebirds, and it exemplifies a case of carnivorous birds occupying a new site shifting to herbivory.
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Vol. 115 • No. 2