Arctic-nesting shorebirds require several refueling stops during their long migrations between breeding grounds and Central and South American wintering areas. The protection of stopover habitats for transcontinental migrants depends on whether birds fly long distances between a few select sites or fly short distances and stop at several wetlands. Although the Great Plains historically provided a vast array of wetlands for use by migrants, wetland loss and conversion have reduced the availability of stopover sites in recent decades. In this study, we examined (1) residency periods, (2) fat dynamics, and (3) migration chronology of two shorebird species, the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) and White-rumped Sandpiper (C. fuscicollis) at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Kansas. Semipalmated Sandpipers had prolonged periods of species residency with overlapping arrivals and departures. Individual residency periods were highly variable and were unrelated to lipid reserves upon arrival. In contrast, White-rumped Sandpipers arrived and departed more synchronously. Birds that arrived in poor condition stayed longer than those with more body fat in 1991, but not in 1992. Wind direction did not influence patterns of departures of either species. We hypothesize that Semipalmated Sandpipers are ecologically eurytopic when migrating across the Great Plains in the spring. Highly variable patterns in arrival, residency, and lipid levels indicate that spring migration of this species is relaxed and opportunistic. White-rumped Sandpipers showed a pattern of reduced flexibility. Flight range estimates suggest that most birds require intermediate stopovers before reaching the breeding grounds. Interior wetlands appear to function as migration stopovers rather than staging areas for shorebirds.
Additional publication details
Residency patterns of migrating sandpipers at a midcontinental stopover