Restoration to Create or Enhance Shorebird Habitat
Plauny, H.L. 2000. Shorebirds. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management Leaflet Number 17. NRCS, USDA.
• Shorebirds occupy a wide range of environments:
– Coastal, saline and freshwater wetlands
– Flooded agricultural fields
– Interior grasslands
– Arctic tundra
– Small bodies
– Long, thin legs for wading
– Three unwebbed toes point forward, hind toe reduced or absent
– Beaks various and adapted for specific foraging
– Life spans greater than 10 y not uncommon
– Thousands of miles between Arctic nesting grounds and Central and South American wintering grounds.
– North American sites along migration routes are critical for supplying energy for migration.
• Declining numbers
– Wetland habitat alteration has contributed to declines in many species.
• Shorebird food
– Aquatic insects
– Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates
– Terrestrial invertebrates
– Small fish
– Reptiles and amphibians
– Plants (minor part of diet)
Drut, M.S. and J.B. Buchanan. 2000. U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. Northern Pacific Coast Regional Shorebird Management Plan. USFWS, Portland, Oregon.
• Management and restoration goals
– Restore wetland habitat where it has been lost to agriculture or development
– Remove and control exotic vegetation such as reed canarygrass, purple loosestrife
– Plant or manage for native vegetation, conducive to shorebird use, in restored habitat
– Manage water levels and vegetation to create conditions suitable for wintering or migrating waterfowl
– Mow and disk vegetation to be flooded during fall migration and winter
– In agricultural areas, use crop management practices that are compatible with shorebird use at a landscape scale. Refrain from tiling.
Harrington, B.A. 2003. Shorebird management during the non-breeding season – an overview of needs, opportunities and management concepts. Water Study Group Bulletin 100: 59-66.
• Managing non-marine wetlands
– Muddier substrate has higher invertebrate count
– Probing birds like softer substrate
– Birds feeding on bottom surface are indifferent to soil character
• Water depth
– Many shorebirds prefer water < 12 cm deep
• Sandpipers, plovers, rails, dabbling ducks
– Some use water 12 to 25 cm
• Herons, ibises
– Others like deeper water
• Grebes, loons, diving ducks
– Different species migrate at different times
– Managed water levels should provide shallow water or bare flats when a particular species is present
• Food resources
– Birds feed on invertebrates
• Need to produce sufficient organic matter and conditions for decay to sustain invertebrates
– May be done by tilling vegetation into the soil, then flooding
– Invertebrates can be made available to shorebirds by slowly drawing water down
• Drawdown too rapid causes mud to dry and harden
• Water too deep makes resource inaccessible
• Gradual drawdown, exposing muddy habitat, is best
– During non-breeding season, most shorebirds prefer habitat with little vegetative cover
• Usually avoid areas with poor visibility because of raptors
– Translates into open, muddy habitat over 2/3 of a managed site.
• Disking to open up a site also provides organic material for invertebrates
– Rails prefer thick vegetation