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The first hop: Use of Beaufort Sea deltas by hatch-year semipalmated sandpipers

November 7, 2017

River deltas along Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coast are used by hatch-year semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) after leaving their terrestrial natal sites, but the drivers of their use of these stopover sites on the first “hop” of fall migration are unknown. We quantified sandpiper temporal distribution and abundance as related to food resources at three river deltas during the beginning of their fall migration (post-breeding period) to compare the habitat quality among these deltas. We conducted population counts, sampled invertebrates, and captured birds to collect blood samples from individuals for triglyceride and stable isotope analyses to determine fattening rates and diet. Patterns of sandpiper and invertebrate abundance were complex and varied among deltas and within seasons. River deltas were used by sandpipers from late July to late August, and peak sandpiper counts ranged from 1000 to 4000 individuals, of which 98% were hatch-year semipalmated sandpipers. Isotopic signatures from blood plasma samples indicated that birds switched from a diet of upland tundra to delta invertebrate taxa as the migration season progressed, suggesting a dependence on delta invertebrates. Despite differences in diet among deltas, we found no differences in fattening rates of juvenile sandpipers as indicated by triglyceride levels. The number of sandpipers was positively associated with abundance of Amphipoda and Oligochaeta at the Jago and Okpilak-Hulahula deltas; an isotopic mixing model indicated that sandpipers consumed Amphipoda and Oligochaeta at Jago, mostly Chironomidae at Okpilak-Hulahula and Spionidae at Canning. Regardless of the difference in sandpiper diets at the Beaufort Sea deltas, their similar fattening rates throughout the season indicate that all of these stopover sites provide a critical food resource for hatch-year sandpipers beginning their first migration.

Publication Year 2018
Title The first hop: Use of Beaufort Sea deltas by hatch-year semipalmated sandpipers
DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0272-8
Authors Roy T. Churchwell, Steve J. Kendall, Stephen C. Brown, Arny L. Blanchard, Tuula E. Hollmen, Abby Powell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70192871
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle