14 February 2013

Shorebird Habits to be Investigated in Rainwater Basin

Starting in late March, when shorebirds arrive at the Rainwater Basin, they may be subjects of a new research effort. Some birds will get captured in a net, be humanly handled to have their physiological traits evaluated and then be released, with a newly attached band.

The purpose is to determine the condition and fueling rate of shorebirds using agricultural field habitats in the area, according to Dr. Joseph Fontaine, Assistant Unit Leader of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and faculty advisor for the project. Research findings will further an understanding of shorebirds as they choose a wetland that meets their resource needs during migration.

The focal species for this study are in the genus Calidris, small artic nesting shorebirds, generally referred to as "peeps."

Previous research is South Dakota has indicated that peeps show a preference for moist-soil habitats associated with agricultural fields, rather than wetlands in grasslands, Fontaine said.

Field studies will be conducted by Caitlyn Gillespie, a student working on a Master's degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Research findings may be useful in evaluating management options concerning migratory birds in the region.
If shorebirds benefit from foraging in flooded agricultural fields, this could be an option that habitat managers in the region can consider, Fontaine said.

The Rainwater Basin is a well-known, and internationally recognized region, and was selected as a study site because of its importance to a wide variety of migratory bird species including many species of Artic nesting shorebirds.

This research is being funded by the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture.

Results of previous studies on this topic, carried out by Dr. Fontaine and student Ryan Stutzman, were presented February 6th, at the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, 18th annual informational seminar held at Hastings, Nebraska.