Agricultural practices have intensified during the past 50 yr, increasing crop production and altering the Canadian prairie landscape by removing or degrading uncropped habitats, including wetlands. We predicted that agricultural practices would alter invertebrate communities and the diets of consumers such as insectivorous birds. Using stable isotope analysis (δ13C and δ15N), we tested for differences in the assimilated diets and isotopic niche widths of adult and nestling Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) in grassland and cropland sites with similar wetland densities in Saskatchewan, Canada. We also assessed relationships between swallow diet and body size, mass, and condition. Dietary composition and niche width differed between years and age classes but were not consistently related to agricultural land cover. Aquatic insect prey (Diptera and Odonata) made up 75% of all swallow diets, but nestlings consumed a larger proportion of terrestrial Diptera, resulting in broader isotopic niche widths compared with adults. Age-specific dietary differences could have been related to temporal shifts in the insect community or distinct foraging by adults when feeding nestlings. The body mass and condition of adult and nestling swallows were unrelated to diet, but were higher on average in grassland than cropland habitat. Overall, Tree Swallows specialized in feeding on aquatic insects, regardless of agricultural land cover, at least in wetland-dominated habitats. Food resources originating from wetlands may play a critical role in supporting insectivorous bird populations in agricultural landscapes.
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Vol. 120 • No. 4