We studied assemblages of feeding shorebirds in three intertidal habitats on the coast of New Jersey during August to document how species segregates patially both among and within habitats and to determine the effects of tidal cycles on these patterns. The habitats were a sandy beach facing the ocean proper (outer beach), a sandy beach on the mainland side of a barrier island (inner beach), and a small mudflat adjacent to a Spartina alternifiora salt marsh. We were able to identify several microhabitats on the outer beach and mudflat. Most speciesfe d in more than one habitat, but only two, Charadrius semipalmatus and Calidris canutus, used all three habitats regularly. Within habitats, most species exhibited strong preferences for the wettest areas, but we found differences among species in degrees of preference. The least amount of partitioning occurred on the inner beach, where birds crowded into a small zone near the water's edge and had frequent agonistic encounters suggesting intense competition. Shorebird feeding activity was partly a function of tide time: each habitat had a characteristic temporal pattern of use by shorebirds related to tide time rather than diel time; within habitats, we found species-characteristic feeding activity rhythms that were also a function of tide time. Feeding by most species peaked during the first 2 hours after low tide on the outer beach and mudflat. The results are discussed in terms of feeding strategies and interspecific competition.
Additional publication details
Effects of tide cycles on habitat selection and habitat partitioning by migrating shorebirds