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Movement ecology during non-breeding season in a long-distance migratory shorebird: are space use and movement patterns sex-biased?

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In many gregarious species, sex-specific differences can lead to significant variation in movement patterns and, consequently, to social and spatial segregation by sex within the population. Specifically, in several long-distance migratory shorebird species, reverse sexual dimorphism has been proposed as a driver of spatial segregation during the non-breeding season. Thus, sex-specific costs associated with space use during these stationary periods could differentially condition subsequent movement patterns between females and males in these species. Using satellite tracking technology, we analyzed the space use and movement patterns of a population of Hudsonian godwits (Limosa haemastica), a gregarious long-distance migratory shorebird, during the non-breeding season in Chiloé, Chile. We predicted that larger females would show more restricted movements and higher local site fidelity, while smaller males would be less competitive and more exploratory. Most individuals exhibited restricted space use (i.e., a home range), while a smaller fraction showed exploratory movements leading to a nomadic movement pattern. Most of these nomadic individuals subsequently oversummered in Argentina rather than migrating back to breeding areas. Contrary to our main prediction, none of the observed movement patterns were sex-biased. Recent evidence suggests that female and male godwits access prey of different sizes within the same foraging sites on Chiloé. Thus, in accordance with our results, and supported by recent additional findings, resource-partitioning within the same foraging patches could reduce interference competition between the sexes by offsetting the competitive advantage associated with the reversed sexual dimorphism of females over males. Finally, we propose these sex differences in foraging strategies could be advantageous for gregarious migratory shorebird populations that show strong connectivity and high site fidelity during and between non-breeding seasons.

Significance statement

Size differences between sexes in migratory birds may result in different energetic requirements and, consequently, different movement patterns. Many migratory shorebirds exhibit reverse sexual dimorphism, and evidence suggests temporal and spatial sex-differences in space use and movement patterns in these species. We tested whether space use and movement patterns could be sex-biased in Hudsonian godwits (Limosa haemastica), a long-distance migratory shorebird with reverse sexual dimorphism, during the non-breeding season. We found no evidence that space use and movement patterns differed between sexes. We found that individuals exhibited two clear movement patterns: range-residency and nomadism. We propose that godwits likely employ sex-specific foraging strategies to exploit the same resource within the same space, consequently minimizing interference competition. We also suggest that the contrast between movement patterns may be the result of factors such as experience, physiological state, and external environmental conditions, rather than sex.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during the current study are included in supplementary material.


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We thank V. Araya, G. Biscarra, C. Gherardi-Fuentes, J. Gutiérrez, C. Navarrete, G. Torres-Fuentes, J. Masero and J. Vergara for fieldwork support. Special thanks to C. Verdugo for his essential contribution for fieldwork activities. Also, we thank J. P. Fuentes and family for their logistical collaboration in the Estación Experimental Quempillén. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


All fieldwork and analyses other than specified were funded by FONDECYT 1161224 (JGN). In addition, ANID grant 21181162 and ANID – Millennium Science Initiative Program – ICN2021_002 funded EB and JGN during writing, respectively.

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EB and JGN conceived the ideas and designed methodology. EB, JR, NRS, JAL, MW, BB and JGN collected the data. EB analyzed the data. EB and JGN contribute equally to the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Enzo Basso.

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Ethical approval

Captures and tagging of godwits were made under bioethics approval 260/2016 from UACh and permissions 5932/2016 from SAG, Gobierno de Chile to JGN. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the use of animals were followed.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Communicated by C. R. Brown.

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Basso, E., Ruiz, J., Linscott, J.A. et al. Movement ecology during non-breeding season in a long-distance migratory shorebird: are space use and movement patterns sex-biased?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 78, 67 (2024).

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