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Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management

Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management

Mark A. Colwell
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management
    Book Description:

    Shorebirds are model organisms for illustrating the principles of ecology and excellent subjects for research. Their mating systems are as diverse as any avian group, their migrations push the limits of endurance, and their foraging is easily studied in the open habitats of estuaries and freshwater wetlands. This comprehensive text explores the ecology, conservation, and management of these fascinating birds. Beginning chapters examine phylogenetic relationships between shorebirds and other birds, and cover shorebird morphology, anatomy, and physiology. A section on breeding biology looks in detail at their reproductive biology. Because shorebirds spend much of their time away from breeding areas, a substantial section on non-breeding biology covers migration, foraging ecology, and social behavior. The text also covers shorebird demography, population size, and management issues related to habitat, predators, and human disturbances. Throughout, it emphasizes applying scientific knowledge to the conservation of shorebird populations, many of which are unfortunately in decline.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94796-2
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Part I. Evolutionary Relationships, Anatomy and Morphology, and Breeding Biology

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-10)

      Why study shorebirds? I’ve occasionally asked myself this question over the 30 years that I’ve been an avian ecologist. At first blush, the answer may not be that scientific: because they’re fascinating! However, the fascination and wonder of shorebirds (or waders as they’re known elsewhere in the English-speaking world) stems from a diversity that seems unrivaled by other bird groups. This diversity is evident across scientific disciplines as varied as biogeography, bioenergetics, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary biology. An additional advantage is that, for the most part, shorebirds provide abundant viewing opportunities in a variety of ecological settings. This makes for...

    • 2 Systematics, Phylogeny, and Phylogeography
      (pp. 11-26)

      The evolutionary relationships within and among taxa are of immense value in understanding many facets of species’ ecologies. Phylogenies are an essential tool understanding the evolution of life history traits. Phylogenetic analyses are important because they estimate patterns of ancestry and descent, thus providing a historical framework upon which to test hypotheses regarding the evolution of character traits (Chu 1994). Accordingly, recent analyses of shorebird phylogeny have fostered productive comparative analyses in areas that include the evolution of delayed plumage maturation (Chu 1994), migration (Joseph et al. 1999), and mating systems (Székely and Reynolds 1995; Reynolds and Székely 1997). Evolutionary...

    • 3 Morphology, Anatomy, and Physiology
      (pp. 27-44)

      Birds are remarkably uniform in many features of their external morphology and internal anatomy. They all have integuments covered with feathers and scales; all oviparous; and all have circulatory and respiratory systems that are almost universally adapted for flight by rapidly delivering oxygen and energy to the tissues of the body. Still, there is considerable interspecific variation in other systems, principally the morphology of the bill and digestive system, which have evolved to acquire, handle, and process different types of food.

      Shorebirds as a group share many features associated with their migratory nature and their use of open, wetland habitats....

    • 4 Mating Systems
      (pp. 45-66)

      The study of mating systems arguably began with Darwin’s (1871) treatise on sexual selection. In his classic work, Darwin detailed differences between males and females in secondary sexual characteristics and mating behaviors. He compared these characters in a diverse group of birds, including many shorebirds such as the Ruff, lapwings, snipes, phalaropes, painted snipes, and pratincoles. As a group, shorebirds run the gamut mating system diversity, from extreme polygyny in lek-breeding species through monogamous and polyandrous taxa. This variation probably stems from the nidifugous nature of the young, which sometimes emancipates parents of one gender from parental care and allows...

    • 5 Breeding Biology
      (pp. 67-102)

      Shorebirds breed on all continents, including sub-Antarctic islands. Many species that breed in northern latitudes undertake amazing migrations between wintering and breeding sites, while others are permanent residents. Shorebirds exhibit tremendous variation in mating system, parental care, and breeding biology. Still, the vocalizations and displays used by breeding shorebirds birds appear to have changed little over millions of years. Moreover, shorebirds are rather constant in clutch size, and they hatch precocial chicks from large, yolk-rich eggs; their chicks develop quickly, especially in Arctic realms. Family groups remain together for varying lengths of time. Collectively, these attributes represent great diversity and...

  5. Part II. Nonbreeding Ecology and Demography

    • 6 Migration
      (pp. 105-130)

      Migration is the predictable seasonal movement of individuals between breeding grounds and wintering areas. It represents a critical segment of the annual cycle shorebirds. Individuals spend considerable time preparing for and completing it; they often require immense energy stores to reach destinations; and there are substantial risks to undertaking migratory movements. Yet it must be a successful evolutionary strategy because over 60% of shorebirds migrate (Warnock et al. 2001). In fact, the migratory feats of some shorebirds rank among the most prodigious of all animals. Most species that breed in far northern latitudes migrate substantial distances to their wintering areas,...

    • 7 Foraging Ecology and Habitat Use
      (pp. 131-158)

      Like most birds, shorebirds spend a larger percentage of their time foraging so as to ingest sufficient energy to maintain the exceptionally high metabolic rates with flight, homeothermism, and the demands of reproduction. Nonbreeding shorebirds experience especially rigorous energetic demands associated with their long migrations, periodic molts, and simply maintaining themselves in sometimes cold, wet weather. Because of these demands, shorebirds feed much of daylight hours and occasionally at night. They routinely forage in open, unvegetated habitats on soft-bodied invertebrates. In coastal regions, activity patterns are strongly dictated by daily tidal rhythms. Consequently, individuals often must maximize the time they...

    • 8 Shorebirds as Predators
      (pp. 159-180)

      The rather simple diets of shorebirds coupled with the comparative ease with which most species can be observed and counted while feeding in open habitats makes for ideal conditions for studying both theoretical and applied aspects of predation. From a theoretical perspective, shorebirds often feed in dense flocks where prey are most available; conversely, shorebirds tend to avoid areas where food is sparse. Moreover, intake rates often vary greatly across habitats of varying prey density. Individuals are most successful in habitats where prey are densest, although interference may compromise intake rates at high conspecific densities. These observations are the essence...

    • 9 Spatial Ecology and Winter Social Organization
      (pp. 181-204)

      The challenge of ecology to understand the various biotic and abiotic factors that contribute to variation in distribution and abundance of species. During the nonbreeding season, shorebirds are ideal subjects to investigate spatial ecology, a discipline that characterizes how individuals are distributed across the landscape with the aim of understanding the selective forces that shape these patterns of dispersion. Shorebirds are ideal subjects for spatial analyses for several reasons. First, they are easily observed in open habitats, where they feed and roost. Thus, their spatial distributions can be readily quantifi and analyzed, especially given recent advancements in field methods (such...

    • 10 Population Biology
      (pp. 205-238)

      In the simplest and traditional view, the goal of conservation and management is to affect the size of wildlife populations such that the rare native species increase, the common ones maintain their abundance, and pest or introduced species are extirpated. To accomplish this task requires detailed knowledge of a species’ population size, birth rate, and death rate, also known as vital rates to demographers. It is also helpful to understand the extent to which immigration and emigration contribute to population change. From an applied perspective, it is imperative that conservationists address the ecological factors that limit population size (Caughley and...

  6. Part III. Management and Conservation

    • 11 Habitat Conservation and Management
      (pp. 241-264)

      For centuries, humans have sought to manipulate wildlife populations by protecting, altering, and managing habitats. In this way, we have increased or sustained abundance of desirable species and decreased populations of others considered to be pests (Leopold 1933). From an ecological perspective, habitat management attempts to manipulate the factors that limit a population (Caughley and Gunn 1996). For example, a principal underlying assumption of efforts to protect and enhance wetlands in wintering areas is that food is in short supply. In principle, increasing the amount and quality of habitat would increase the availability of food, which has positive consequences for...

    • 12 Managing Predators
      (pp. 265-278)

      Predation has influenced the biology of shorebirds in myriad ways. Their social tendencies (Goss-Custard 1985), migratory habits (Lank et al. 2003), and especially breeding biology (Lack 1968) and parental behavior (Gochfeld 1984) have been shaped a long evolutionary history of predation adults, eggs, and young. For example, during the breeding season, the cryptic plumages incubating sandpipers and the choice of nest site, clutch size, egg-laying intervals, and distraction displays of adults defending eggs and chicks may all be interpreted as a consequence of predation. In ecological time, predation also is known to have strong effects on population dynamics. A population’s...

    • 13 Managing Human Disturbance
      (pp. 279-292)

      Shorebirds occupy habitats that are highly valued by humans for commercial, recreational, and agricultural purposes. Consequently, human activity has the potential to negatively influence the behavior, local distribution and abundance, productivity, and survival as well as population dynamics of shorebirds in a variety of habitats. In meadows and prairies, the nests of shorebirds may be lost to trampling by livestock or run over by farm equipment used to harvest crops. In coastal regions, several species of shorebird breed on ocean beaches that are prized by humans recreation, with negative consequences for incubation and reproductive success. Finally, in estuaries and interior...

    • 14 Education and Outreach
      (pp. 293-304)

      The success of conservation lies in ameliorating the negative impact of humans and preserving and managing the habitats necessary to sustain wildlife populations for generations to come. All the science and management in the world will go for naught if the general populace does not understand the consequences of lost biodiversity, whether it is in the form of species’ extinctions or loss of ecological services provided by intact communities of native species assembled within healthy ecosystems. The goal of environmental education, outreach, and interpretation (see Definitions) is to communicate these ideas and relationships in a way that alters the behaviors...

    (pp. 305-320)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 321-329)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 330-330)