Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 541–550 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal patterns of habitat use by Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) in the eastern Wadden Sea revealed using GPS data loggers

  • Philipp SchwemmerEmail author
  • Stefan Garthe
Original Paper


Detailed knowledge on species–habitat relationships is of crucial importance for the understanding of processes in marine ecosystems. Being top-predators, birds are important bio-indicators for marine systems. The aim of this study was to elucidate precise information on foraging habitat use and foraging times of oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) on wide tidal flats using global positioning system (GPS) data loggers. The study was conducted to collect hints for the negative population trends in oystercatchers in the Wadden Sea. It is the first time that GPS technique has been used in a shorebird species. Although oystercatchers are known to exhibit foraging site fidelity, a number of individuals visited multiple sites. Foraging trips at night were longer, and the targeted sites were further away than those used during the day. These patterns were likely to be caused by higher risks of clutch predation by avian predators during the day that led adults to reduce their absence to defend their clutches. Our methodological approach enabled the subtle spatio-temporal patterns of habitat use to be determined on a very fine spatio-temporal scale. We suggest further potential studies using GPS data loggers that may help to reveal the reasons for the current declines in oystercatcher populations in the German Wadden Sea.


Global Position System Tidal Flat Breeding Territory Trip Distance Trip Length 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We greatly thank Angelika and Frank Kühn for access to the oystercatcher breeding sites and for extensive help with field work. H. Seibel and H. Dries helped with bird handling and recapture. G. Peters from Earth & Ocean Technologies helped to solve problems with the GPS data loggers. S. Adler provided statistical advice. We are thankful to M. Exo for commenting on an earlier version of the manuscript. All parts of the study complied with current German laws. All necessary permissions regarding animal welfare were issued prior to the study. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Technology Centre (FTZ)University of KielBüsumGermany

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