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Foraging ecology and time budgets of non-breeding shorebirds in coastal Cuba

  • Erica Nol (a1), Kate MacCulloch (a1), Lisa Pollock (a1) and Laura McKinnon (a1)


During the non-breeding season, shorebirds, a large and important group of wetland vertebrates, divide their time between foraging, resting and maintenance activities. We examined factors affecting time budgets, foraging techniques and rates, and spacing patterns of 14 to 92 individuals each of 10 shorebird species spending the non-breeding season in Cayo Guillermo, Cuba. We hypothesized that all species would spend the majority of their time foraging. Time spent foraging ranged from 20–85% of total time and was significantly negatively related to average body size. Apparent aggression (e.g. chasing or being chased) occurred in < 10% of individuals in all species and was not related to maximum counts of conspecifics. Aggression was most common in the black-necked stilt but did not vary in frequency as a function of activity. Vigilance varied in occurrence from 0–53% of individuals, but the frequency was not related to maximum counts. Intraspecific distances were generally greater between foraging than non-foraging birds. For most species interspecific distances were similar to intraspecific distances during foraging but greater than intraspecific differences during non-foraging, suggesting some overlap in foraging habitat and niche partitioning during non-foraging. Shorebirds that used primarily tactile techniques foraged closer together than primarily visual foragers. Low rates of aggression, as an index of potential competition, suggest that species-specific energy requirements rather than competitive interactions are the main determinants of foraging behaviour on these tropical non-breeding grounds.


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