Many shorebird species undertake long-distance migrations punctuated by brief stays at food-rich, estuarine stopover locations. Understanding use of these food resources helps guide conservation and responsible development decisions. We determined the extent and degree to which Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) utilized biofilm as a food resource across a large and variable stopover location during northward (spring) migration. We investigated the spatial heterogeneity in diet composition, to determine whether shorebirds were consistently feeding on biofilm or whether diet varied between naturally and anthropogenically delineated sites. We used stable isotope analysis to estimate that biofilm conservatively comprised 22% to 53% of Western Sandpiper droppings across all sampling sites and that prey composition differed significantly between areas within the stopover location. Widespread biofilm consumption demonstrates the importance of biofilm as a dietary component. Variable diet composition suggests that habitat heterogeneity may be an important component of high quality stopover locations in the context of “state-dependant trade-offs” of Western Sandpiper population sub-groups. Future management decisions must consider and address potential impacts on the biofilm community throughout a stopover location, as single site studies of diet composition may not be adequate to develop effective management strategies for entire stopover sites.
Jardine, C. B., Bond, A. L., Davidson, P. J. A., Butler, R. W., Kuwae, T., & Pond, D. W. (Ed.) (2015). Biofilm Consumption and Variable Diet Composition of Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) during Migratory Stopover. PLoS ONE, 10(4), e0124164. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124164