Shorebird feeding specialists differ in how environmental conditions alter their foraging time

H. van der Kolk (Co-auteur), B.J. Ens, K.H. Oosterbeek, Willem Bouten, Andrew Allen, M. Frauendorf, Thomas Lameris, Thijs Oosterbeek, Symen Deuzeman, Kelly de Vries, Eelke Jongejans, Martijn Van de Pol

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan wetenschappelijk tijdschrift/periodieke uitgaveArtikelWetenschappelijkpeer review

17 Citaten (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


Feeding specialization is a common cause of individual variation. Fitness payoffs of specialization vary with environmental conditions, but the underlying behavioral mechanisms are poorly understood. Such mechanistic knowledge, however, is crucial to reliably predict responses of heterogeneous populations to environmental change. We quantified spatiotemporal allocation of foraging behavior in wintering Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), a species in which feeding specialization can be inferred from bill shape. We combined global positioning system (GPS) and accelerometer data to quantify foraging time of 64 individuals for every tidal period in one or two winter seasons. Individuals varied widely in foraging time (3.7–6.5 h per tidal period) and individuals that spend more time foraging had lower inferred survival. Feeding specialization appeared a major determinant of individual variation in foraging time and its spatiotemporal allocation. Visually hunting worm specialists foraged more during day time and complemented intertidal foraging with grassland foraging when the exposure of intertidal flats was limited and nights were well illuminated. Shellfish specialists increased total foraging time in cold weather, whereas foraging time of worm specialists decreased as frosty grasslands became inaccessible. Our results imply that worm specialists may be most sensitive to cold snaps and daytime disturbance, whereas shellfish specialists are most sensitive to high water levels. These behavioral responses can be implemented in population models to predict the vulnerability of heterogeneous populations to environmental change and, thereby, provide a shortcut to long-term population studies that require fitness data across many years and conditions to make similar projections.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)371-382
TijdschriftBehavioral Ecology
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
Vroegere onlinedatum2019
StatusGepubliceerd - 2020

Research theme

  • Global environmental change


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