While many migrating and wintering shorebird (Charadriiformes) species face declines in quality and quantity of natural stopover sites, diked wetlands managed for shorebirds may provide supplemental habitat. We describe an integrative shorebird-waterfowl management strategy used at Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center on South Island, South Carolina, during 3 winter-spring seasons (1991-93). We compared shorebird use and invertebrate density between diked, managed wetlands and adjacent natural coastal mudflat areas. About 3,000 shorebirds overwintered each year at the site. Migration numbers peaked at 15,000-19,000 during late May. In 1991, shorebird density and absolute numbers were higher (P < 0.05) in managed wetlands at high tide than natural mudflats at low tide. In 1993, we counted shorebird density at low tide both in managed wetlands and Mother Norton Shoals, the largest natural area. During February, shorebird frequency was higher in Mother Norton Shoals and lower in managed wetlands than expected values based on area (P < 0.005). In contrast, from March to May, shorebird frequency was higher in managed wetlands and lower in natural mudflats than expected (P < 0.005 for each month). Invertebrate density from March to May was generally greater in managed wetlands than at Mother Norton Shoals, which may explain shorebird preference during that time. Greater invertebrate density did not explain the pattern in February. Mean water depth in managed wetlands for each shorebird species was <5 cm except for American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) which used deeper water (xI? = 8.4 cm, SD = 4.5). Results indicate that an integrative shorebird-waterfowl management strategy provides supplemental shorebird habitat at high tide, and managed wetlands can be preferred to local natural mudflat areas at low tide.
Additional publication details
Shorebird use of South Carolina managed and natural coastal wetlands