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