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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 44–50 | Cite as

Differential predator escape performance contributes to a latitudinal sex ratio cline in a migratory shorebird

  • Silke Nebel
  • Ronald C. Ydenberg
Original Article

Abstract

Sexual segregation outside the mating season is common in vertebrates, and has been attributed to sexual differences in predator escape performance in ungulates and fish, but not in birds. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sex- and latitude-specific predator escape performance underlies the differential nonbreeding distribution of western sandpipers (Calidris mauri), a migratory shorebird. Females overwinter further south along the American Pacific coast, creating a latitudinal cline in sex ratio. Escape performance is reduced with increasing body mass, and birds generally carry less fat further south. Western sandpipers with poor escape performance were therefore predicted to prefer southern sites to reduce the risk of mortality posed by predators. Data from four nonbreeding latitudes showed that wing loading, used as an index of escape performance, was overall higher for females, and that it decreased with latitude in both sexes. Within latitudes, wing loading was lower at smaller, and presumably more dangerous, sites. Flight response to a predatory attack was longer in the south. Mortality risk offers a novel and candidate explanation for differential distribution patterns in western sandpipers and possibly other avian migrants.

Keywords

Differential migration Mortality risk Predation danger Sex ratio cline Western sandpiper 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Logistical help was received from Bodega Bay Marine Lab, California; Craig Sasser at USFWS, Cape Romain NWR, South Carolina; Gilberto Salomon, Patolandia Hunting Club, Mexico; John Christy at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, and the Canadian Wildlife Service. John Takekawa and Nils Warnock provided the 2003 wing loading data from San Francisco Bay. We thank Guillermo Fernandez for facilitating work in Mexico. Cadi Schiffer, John Takekawa, and Nils Warnock assisted with field work in California; Virgilio Antonio Pérez in Mexico; and Deborah Buehler in Panama. Dov Lank, Nils Warnock, and Tony Williams provided valuable comments on the manuscript. Financial support was received from the Government of Canada, Centre of Wildlife Ecology/Simon Fraser University and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.School of Biological, Earth & Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia

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