Iheringia. Série Zoologia
Print version ISSN 0073-4721
GIANUCA, Dimas; GIANUCA, Andros T. and VOOREN, Carolus M.. Abundance, breeding and food of the Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea (Aves, Ardeidae) in the Patos Lagoon estuary, a recently colonized area in southern Brazil. Iheringia, Sér. Zool. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.1, pp. 19-25. ISSN 0073-4721. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0073-47212012000100003.
We document the expansion of the breeding distribution of the Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea (Linnaeus, 1758) to 850 km beyond its previous southern limit in South America. In addition we present data on abundance, breeding biology and food of the species in the Patos Lagoon estuary, the area which the species recently colonized. The maximum abundance recorded in the breeding colony and in a nocturnal roosting site was 53 and 49 individuals respectively. Nesting occurred from September to March. Birds nested in a mixed breeding colony together with about 3,000 breeding pairs of seven other species of Pelecaniformes, in a swampy forest near the margin of the estuary. Five nests were between 1.5 and 4.3 m from the ground, on the shrub Daphnopsis racemosa (Thymelaeaceae), on the trees Sebastiana brasiliensis (Euphorbiaceae) and Mimosa bimucronata (Leguminosae), or on the bamboo Bambusa sp. (Poaceae). Four nests produced two fledglings each, while one nest was abandoned. Of 13 grouped samples of food regurgitated by five nestlings, Pink Shrimp Farfantepenaeus paulensis (Perez-Farfante, 1967) constituted 70% in mass, while total length of ingested fishes and shrimps varied mostly between 20 and 50 mm. Estuarine prey items represented 99% of the total food mass. The recent southward expansion of the breeding range of the Little Blue Heron in South America may be a response to climate warming of the Patos Lagoon estuary. Degradation of estuaries in the southwestern Atlantic may also be forcing the birds to breed in areas outside previous geographical range.
Keywords : Climate change; herons; reproduction; Rio Grande do Sul; range expansion.