The American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus palliatus) is currently listed as a species of high concern by the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan. Because nutritional status directly impacts overall health and reproduction of individuals and populations, adequate management of a wildlife population requires intimate knowledge of a species' diet and nutrient requirements. Fat-soluble vitamin concentrations in blood plasma obtained from American oystercatchers and proximate, vitamin, and mineral composition of various oystercatcher prey species were determined as baseline data to assess nutritional status and nutrient supply. Bird and prey species samples were collected from the Cape Romain region, South Carolina, USA, and the Altamaha River delta islands, Georgia, USA, where breeding populations appear relatively stable in recent years. Vitamin A levels in blood samples were higher than ranges reported as normal for domestic avian species, and vitamin D concentrations were lower than anticipated based on values observed in poultry. Vitamin E levels were within ranges previously reported for avian groups with broadly similar feeding niches such as herons, gulls, and terns (eg, aquatic/estuarine/marine). Prey species (oysters, mussels, clams, blood arks [Anadara ovalis], whelks [Busycon carica], false angel wings [Petricola pholadiformis]) were similar in water content to vertebrate prey, moderate to high in protein, and moderate to low in crude fat. Ash and macronutrient concentrations in prey species were high compared with requirements of carnivores or avian species. Prey items analyzed appear to meet nutritional requirements for oystercatchers, as estimated by extrapolation from domestic carnivores and poultry species; excesses, imbalances, and toxicities—particularly of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins—may warrant further investigation.
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