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Foraging strategies involved in habitat use of shorebirds at the intertidal area of Chongming Dongtan, China

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Dense flocks of migratory shorebirds from diverse species often concentrate in the intertidal areas for stopover. Trophic structure, food partition, prey availability and selectivity, predation risk, and abiotic factors are often used to explain the differences in habitat use of coexisting shorebirds. We sampled the macrobenthos and surveyed the distribution of shorebird populations to study the effects of foraging strategies on the habitat use of shorebirds at Chongming Dongtan, an important stopover site for shorebirds on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Results show that the relative abundance of epifaunal macrobenthos in salt marshes was much higher than that in the bare flats, whereas the relative abundance of infaunal macrobenthos in salt marshes was much lower than that in bare flats. The relative abundance of two life forms of macrobenthos was similar in the transitional zones between the salt marshes and the bare flats. Shorebirds with different foraging strategies exhibited different habitat uses. Pause-travel shorebirds mainly utilized the salt-marsh fringes, while tactile continuous shorebirds relied heavily on the bare flats. There was no significant difference in habitat use for visual continuous shorebirds. The density of tactile continuous shorebirds was positively correlated with bivalve density, and that of visual continuous shorebirds positively with crustacean density. Meanwhile, the relative abundance of pause-travel foraging shorebirds was positively correlated with the relative abundance of epifaunal, but negatively with infaunal macrobenthos. In contrast, the relative abundance of tactile foraging shorebirds had a positive correlation with infaunal but a negative one with epifaunal life form. Therefore, foraging strategies may play important roles in shorebirds’ habitat use in intertidal areas.

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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 30400057), Ministry of Education Programme (no. 104074) and Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai (04DZ19301, 04DZ19303, 05DZ12005, 05DZ22327, 05QMX1406). We appreciate Jing Zhu, Xiaojing Gan, Shimin Tang, Chendong Tang, and Kejia Zhang for their help with the data collection and field surveys, and Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve for facilitating our fieldwork. We also thank Chiyeung Choi for his advice on an earlier version of this article, and two anonymous referees for their constructive suggestions in the revision, and Bruce Anderson for improving English.

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Correspondence to Jiakuan Chen.

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Jing, K., Ma, Z., Li, B. et al. Foraging strategies involved in habitat use of shorebirds at the intertidal area of Chongming Dongtan, China. Ecol Res 22, 559–570 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-006-0302-7

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  • East Asian–Australasian Flyway
  • Foraging strategy
  • Habitat use
  • Mudflat
  • Stopover
  • Yangtze River estuary