Lowland coniferous forests adjacent to northern Lake Huron provide important stopover habitat for landbirds during spring migration. Large numbers of aquatic insects emerging from nearshore waters of northern Lake Huron appear to be an important food source. In this study we compared the foraging behavior of a long-distance landbird migrant, the American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), in areas with high densities of emergent aquatic insects to areas with few or no emergent aquatic insects to assess the significance of these arthropods as an early spring food source. Redstarts foraged differently in shoreline habitats relative to inland habitats of similar vegetation composition. Both males and females gleaned significantly more in shoreline habitats as compared to inland areas of similar vegetation composition, and inland birds performed more sally strikes than birds at the shoreline. Both sexes also varied the use of tree species in which they foraged. Redstarts used northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) more at shoreline than inland, while inland redstarts foraged in deciduous trees more than at the shoreline. We suggest that differences in foraging between shoreline and inland locations were responses to differences in prey types and abundance, most notably the presence of emergent aquatic insects (Diptera: Chironomidae) in shoreline habitat. Our results complement those of previous work, suggesting that midges provide a critical early season resource for landbirds migrating through Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula during spring.
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