Feeding methods, visual fields and vigilance in dabbling ducks (Anatidae)

M Guillemain, Graham Martin, H Fritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Citations (Scopus)


1. Visual fields were determined in two species of dabbling ducks (Anatini): Shoveler Anas clypeata L. (planktivore whose foraging is guided mainly by tactile cues) and Wigeon A. penelope L. (herbivore whose foraging is guided mainly by visual cues). 2. The binocular fields of Shoveler and Wigeon are of similar maximum width (20degrees), but they differ in their position and vertical extent. The bill of the Shoveler lies in the very periphery of its frontal binocular field, which extends through 220degrees thus providing comprehensive visual coverage about the head. In Wigeon the bill is positioned more centrally in the frontal binocular field, which extends through 150degrees and results in the birds having a narrow blind area behind the head. 3. The vigilance behaviour of Shoveler and Wigeon when foraging simultaneously was studied using a focal observation procedure at sites where the two species winter in sympatry. Focal Wigeon almost only fed by grazing. Only Shoveler feeding by dabbling (filtering the first centimetres of water) were used in the analyses. Wigeon spent significantly more time in head-up vigilance than Shoveler (F (1,75) = 14.70, P = 0.0003). 4. It is proposed that this interspecific difference in the proportion of time spent in vigilance behaviour may be an adaptive response to differences in the visual field topography of these species, particularly with respect to the presence/absence of a blind area to the rear of the head. 5. The ability of foragers to combine part of their vigilance behaviour with head-down feeding has recently been recognized as influencing the trade-offs related to vigilance while foraging. This study shows that this ability may vary significantly between species, even within the same genus, and that these variations are likely to be due to contrasted visual fields, themselves related to the type of feeding techniques employed by the different duck species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-529
Number of pages8
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2002


  • Anas clypeata
  • Anas penelope
  • Anatidae


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