We monitored the inter-wetland movements of 115 radio-tagged Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) at three migration stopovers in the Great Plains of North America during April and May from 1992 to 1995. While resident at a stopover, individuals were very localized in their movements. Over 40% of the birds made no inter, wetland movements, and over 90% of individuals moved less than 10 km from their original release site. Characteristics of wetlands where birds were released did not affect bird movements. However, the structure of the surrounding landscape explained up to 46% of variation in individual bird movements. As the distance between wetlands decreased, and the proportion of the landscape composed of wetlands increased, individual birds moved between wetlands more frequently and moved longer distances from their release site. These movement patterns indicate that a more connected landscape allows shorebirds to exploit more feeding sites with reduced searching costs; a result consistent with foraging theory. We estimate a degree of landscape connectivity at which a wetland complex functions as a single large wetland as measured by sandpiper feeding patterns. Our data provide support for the idea that complexes of small, closely spaced wetlands can be important migration stopovers and may have significant conservation value.
Additional publication details
Effects of the landscape on shorebird movements at spring migration stopovers