We examined the responses of migrating shorebirds to habitat dynamics in a wetland complex on the Great Plains during 1989-1992. Availability of habitat was variable within and between seasons, but fluctuations in habitat were dampened when wetlands were considered as a complex rather than individually. Shorebirds exhibited an ability to colonize available habitat opportunistically, to occupy wet mud/shallow water habitat that became available during their residency period regardless of wetland history, and to use wet mud/shallow water habitat almost immediately upon its appearance. We found a significant relation between number of shorebirds and the area of wet mud/shallow water habitat, regardless of dramatic changes in habitat. Management for continental stopover sites for shorebirds requires the maintenance of complexes of potential habitat to assure resource alternatives for birds as local conditions vacillate.