|Title||Site-specific flight speeds of nonbreeding Pacific dunlins as a measure of the quality of a foraging habitat|
|Author(s)||Reurink, Florian; Hentze, Nathan; Rourke, Jay; Ydenberg, Ron|
|Source||Behavioral Ecology 27 (2016)3. - ISSN 1045-2249 - p. 803 - 809.|
|Publication type||Refereed Article in a scientific journal|
|Keyword(s)||Dunlin - Foraging theory - Optimal flight speed - Shorebird habitat quality|
Many studies have investigated how foraging behavior such as prey choice varies with factors such as prey size or density. Models of such relationships can be applied "in reverse" to translate easily observed foraging behaviors into assays of habitat attributes that cannot (easily) be measured directly. One such model analyzes the speed of a forager flying between patches, where it captures prey. Faster flight shortens the travel time and hence elevates the intake rate, but is increasingly expensive. The model shows that the net intake rate is maximized at the point at which the energetic cost of flight is equivalent to the net rate of intake. Easy-to-measure flight speeds can thus be translated into hard-to-measure foraging intake rates using established flight power relationships. We studied nonbreeding Pacific dunlins (Calidris alpina pacifica) at 4 intertidal sites on the Fraser River estuary, British Columbia, Canada. These sites differed sufficiently that we expected food availability and hence the attainable foraging rate to differ. We measured interpatch flight speeds of dunlins foraging along the tideline within each site. The measured ground speed, calculated airspeed, and the statistically derived zero-wind effect airspeed all differed significantly between sites, matching in rank order our expectation of habitat quality based on their physical differences. Intake rate estimates ranged from 4.10 W (best mudflat) to 3.48 W (poorest). We think it unlikely that we would have been able to find such small differences using direct measures of foraging intake.