American Whimbrel Habitat
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American whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus
Use of Study Area Resources:
Whimbrels migrate through the study area, using primarily coastal areas in spring, and a combination of coastal and inland areas in the Fall (Pierson et al. 1996, Skeel and Mallory 1996). In North America, whimbrels breed in subarctic zones on tundra and taiga, often with associated marshes. They winter along coastal areas of North America, from California and the Carolinas southward through South America (Johnsgard 1981, Skeel and Mallory 1996).
Whimbrels are flexible in their foraging behavior and can take advantage of a variety of habitats, concentrating on the most profitable prey (Turpie and Hockey 1997). In coastal areas they forage on intertidal flats, beaches, estuaries, rocky shores, salt marshes and dunes for marine invertebrates, including crustaceans, worms, and molluscs (Skeel & Mallory 1996). Their bill is adapted to fit the curve of the fiddler crab (Uca spp.) burrow (Johnsgard 1981, Velasques and Navarro 1993, Skeel & Mallory 1996). Inland foraging sites include heaths, wet meadows, farmland, and grasslands. Food items include berries (blueberries, huckleberries, crow berries, and cloudberries), insects (beetles, grasshoppers, crickets), and spiders (Mackay 1892, Glutz et al. 1977 in Johnsgard 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, Montevecchi and Tuck 1987 in Skeel and Mallory 1996).
The habitat models relied on abundance/occurrence information from a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) shorebird coverage, and the Manomet Bird Observatory's International Shorebird Survey (ISS) database for Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The occurrence information was used to select the general localities used by the species. Environmental data sets (bathymetry and wetland cover type) were used to select areas within those localities likely to have been used. The ISS data specified the observation locations only to the nearest minute, so all suitable cover types (see table, below) within a 1 km radius of those points were regarded as having the level of use indicated at the observation point.
|Cover Types||Cover Suitability
(0 - 1 scale)
|Upland deciduous forest|
|Upland coniferous forest|
|Upland mixed forest|
|PEM, L2EM||Lake/pond, emergent vegetation|
|PFOcon||Palustrine forest, conifer|
|PFOdec||Palustrine forest, deciduous|
|PSSdec||Palustrine scrub shrub, deciduous|
|PSScon||Palustrine scrub shrub, conifer|
|PAB, L2AB||Lake/pond, aquatic vegetation|
|L1UB, PUB||Lake/pond, unconsolidated bottom|
|L2US||Lake, unconsolidated shore||1.0|
|L2RS||Lake, rocky shore|
|R1UB||Riverine subtidal unconsolidated|
|E1AB||Estuarine subtidal vegetated|
|E1UB||Estuarine subtidal unconsolidated bottom|
|E2AB||Estuarine intertidal algae||0.5|
|E2EM||Estuarine intertidal emergent||1.0|
|E2RS, R1RS||Estuarine, tidal river rocky shore||0.5|
|E2SS||Estuarine intertidal shrub|
|E2US, R1US||Estuarine, riverine intertidal unconsolidated shore||1.0|
|M1AB||Marine subtidal vegetated|
|M1UB||Marine subtidal unconsolidated bottom|
|M2AB||Marine intertidal algae||0.5|
|M2RS||Marine intertidal rocky shore||0.5|
|M2US||Marine intertidal unconsolidated shore||1.0|
|NOTES||* patches > 1 ha only|
Habitat Suitability Scoring: Sites with whimbrel occurrences and having any of the suitable landcover types (see table) first were scored according to level of use. If a site had 5 or more birds observed at any time, the suitability index = 1.0; else, if any birds were present the suitability index = 0.5. Then this value was multiplied by the landcover score.
Suitable cover types outside of the observation/occurrence polygons were scored as potential foraging habitats; unconsolidated sediment cover types were re-scored 0.2; grassland, marsh and rocky types were re-scored 0.1.
Hayman, P., J. Marchant and T. Prater. 1986. Shorebirds: an Identification Guide to the Waders of the World. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. 412 pp.
Johnsgard, P.A. 1981. The Plovers, Sandpipers and Snipes of the World. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, NE. 493 pp.
Mackay, G.H. 1892. Habits of the Hudsonian Curlew in Massachusetts. Auk 9: 345-352.
Pierson, E.C., J.E. Pierson and P.D. Vickery. 1996. A Birders Guide to Maine. Down East Books, Camden, ME.
Skeel, M.A. and E.P. Mallory. 1996. Whimbrel. No. 219 in Birds of North America series, Birds of North America, Inc, Philadelphia, PA. 28 pp.
Turpie, J.K. and Hockey, P.A.R. 1997. Adaptive variation the foraging behaviour of grey plover Pluvialis squatarola and whimbrel Numenius phaeopus. Ibis 139(2):289-298.
Velasquez, C.R. and R.A. Navarro. 1993. The influence of water depth and sediment type on the foraging behavior of whimbrels. J. Field Ornithol. 64(2):149-157.