Pomeroy, A.C., D. A. Acevedo Seaman, R. W. Butler, R. W. Elner, T. D. Williams, and R. C. Ydenberg. 2008. Feeding-danger trade-offs underlie stopover site selection by migrants. Avian Conservation and Ecology 3(1):7.
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To migrate successfully, birds need to store adequate fat reserves to fuel each leg of the journey. Migrants acquire their fuel reserves at stopover sites; this often entails exposure to predators. Therefore, the safety attributes of sites may be as important as the feeding opportunities. Furthermore, site choice might depend on fuel load, with lean birds more willing to accept danger to obtain good feeding. Here, we evaluate the factors underlying stopover-site usage by migrant Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) on a landscape scale. We measured the food and danger attributes of 17 potential stopover sites in the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound region. We used logistic regression models to test whether food, safety, or both were best able to predict usage of these sites by Western Sandpipers. Eight of the 17 sites were used by sandpipers on migration. Generally, sites that were high in food and safety were used, whereas sites that were low in food and safety were not. However, dangerous sites were used if there was ample food abundance, and sites with low food abundance were used if they were safe. The model including both food and safety best-predicted site usage by sandpipers. Furthermore, lean sandpipers used the most dangerous sites, whereas heavier birds (which do not need to risk feeding in dangerous locations) used safer sites. This study demonstrates that both food and danger attributes are considered by migrant birds when selecting stopover sites, thus both these attributes should be considered to prioritize and manage stopover sites for conservation.