Scolopacid sandpipers were studied from 1980 until 1984 during spring migration in North Dakota. Common species foraging together in mixed-species flocks differed in bill length most often by 20 to 30 percent (ratios from 1.2:1 to 1.3:1). Observed flocks were compared to computer generated flocks drawn from three source pools of Arctic-nesting sandpipers. The source pools included 51 migrant species from a global pool, 33 migrant species from a Western Hemisphere pool, and 13 species that migrated through North Dakota. The observed flocks formed randomly from the available species that used the North Dakota migration corridor but the North Dakota species were not a random selection from the Western Hemisphere and global pools of Arctic-nesting scolopacid sandpipers. In short, the ephemeral, mixed-species foraging flocks that we observed in North Dakota were random mixes from a non-random pool. The size-ratio distributions were consistent with the interpretation that use of this migration corridor by sandpipers has been influenced by some form of size-related selection such as competition.
Additional publication details
Size differences in migrant sandpiper flocks: ghosts in ephemeral guilds