The San Francisco Bay estuary is a migration and wintering area for more than 1.5 million waterbirds on the west coast of North America. Because the estuary is located in a metropolitan area, development and diking of baylands (the region between the edge of the bay and the historical high tide line) have greatly altered the wetland landscape. Recently, conservation interests have promoted restoration of diked baylands to tidal salt marshes for the benefit of endangered native species. However, effects of tidal marsh conversion on the existing community of waterbirds in the baylands are largely unknown, especially in muted tidal marshes with restricted inflows and in artificial salt evaporation ponds where high waterbird densities are found. The first radio-marking study of the Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) was conducted in November-December 2000 to examine their use of baylands. We captured 32 birds by rocket netting in a muted tidal marsh on the North Bay and radio-marked them with 1.2 g transmitters affixed with glue. Individuals were tracked for an average of 20.3 d (??8.5 SD) and obtained 217 high tide and 195 low tide locations. Movements between tides (x?? = 1.29 ?? 1.48 SD km) and home range sizes (x?? = 17.7 ?? 16.0 SD km2) were highly variable. Long-billed Dowitchers preferred open habitats such as muted tidal marshes during the high tide, but the majority (78.5%) also remained in these wetlands during low tide rather than feeding at nearby mud flats. Their avoidance of mud flats contrasted sharply with Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) but was similar to Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus). Seven Long-billed Dowitchers flew 110 km inland to Central Valley wetlands in mid-December, a regional movement documented earlier for Dunlin (Calidris alpina) wintering on the coast. However, unlike Dunlin, their movements were not in response to rainfall but may have been in response to a low pressure front or possibly predictable flooding of fields in the Central Valley. Although the estuary is a major wintering area supporting large numbers of waterbirds, some birds such as Long-billed Dowitchers move inland to freshwater wetlands in the Central Valley.
Additional publication details
Waterbird use of bayland wetlands in the San Francisco Bay Estuary: Movements of Long-billed Dowitchers during the winter