Shorebirds in western North America: Late 1800s to late 1900s

Studies in Avian Biology
By:  and 
Edited by: Joseph R. Jehl Jr. and Ned K. Johnson



Only anecdotal information is available to assess whether populations of the 47 shorebird species that breed or winter west of the Rocky Mountains changed in size or distribution during the past century. Unregulated hunting from 1870 to 1927 reduced populations of several species, at least temporarily, and was a factor in bringing the Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis) close to extinction. Large scale transformation of native grasslands and wetlands for agriculture and other purposes resulted in population declines and nesting range contractions of several temperate-zone breeders. In general, upland species were affected more than wetland species, breeding ranges contracted westward, and alteration of breeding habitat was the factor most responsible for range contractions and population declines. A ranking system assessing shorebird susceptibility to habitat alteration also predicted temperate breeders to be among the most vulnerable species to environmental change. The few estimates for current population sizes of western North American shorebirds range from fewer than 50 Eskimo Curlews to a few million Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri), the most abundant species. Concentrations of at least 1000 shorebirds occur on migration at over 120 western North American sites and of 100,000 to 1,000,000 shorebirds at 18 sites. Whether populations are limited by conditions on breeding, wintering or migration ranges is unknown for most species. Expansion of ongoing programs coupled with economical new census efforts could be useful for monitoring the majority of western North American shorebirds during the next century.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Shorebirds in western North America: Late 1800s to late 1900s
Series title Studies in Avian Biology
ISBN 0935868720
Volume 15
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Cooper Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 14 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title A century of avifaunal change in western North America (Studies in Avian Biology no. 15)
First page 147
Last page 160
Other Geospatial North America