US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Atoll Res. Bulletin 543 (2006): 181-199


The Laysan teal (Anas laysanensis) is an endangered dabbling duck endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago but currently restricted to a single breeding population on Laysan Island. We studied its diet using fecal analysis and behavioral observations. Laysan teal fecal samples (N=118) contained prey items in 15 primary prey categories with a mean of 2.9 (range 0-7) taxa per sample. Sixty-two of these fecal samples were quantified with 2,270 prey items identified (mean items per sample 37; range 0-205). Based on fecal analysis and behavioral observations, we learned that the Laysan teal is not strictly a macroinsectivore as previously reported, but consumed seeds, succulent leaves, and algae, in addition to adult and larval diptera, ants, lepidoptera, coleoptera, and Artemia. We compared abundance of invertebrates from two terrestrial foraging substrates, soil and standing vegetation, to the abundance of invertebrate prey items counted in fecal samples collected from these habitats for the same period. In the soil substrate, Laysan teal selected two of the most abundant invertebrates, lepidoptera larvae and coleoptera. In the standing vegetation, Laysan teal selected the most abundant taxa: coleoptera. Amphipods were consumed in proportion to their abundance, and small gastropods (Tornatellides sp.), isopods, and arachnids were avoided or were identified in fecal matter in disproportion to their abundance in the foraging habitat. We compared fecal composition of samples collected in aquatic and terrestrial habitats and detected significant differences in samples’ species compositions. The conservation implications of the adult Laysan teal’s diet are positive, since results indicate that the Laysan teal are opportunistic insectivores, and exhibit dietary flexibility that includes seeds and other food. Dietary flexibility improves the possibility of successfully reestablishing populations on other predator-free islands.