Differential predator escape performance contributes to a latitudinal sex ratio cline in a migratory shorebird

S. Nebel, R.C. Ydenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Sexual segregation outside the mating season is common in vertebrates, and has been attributed to sexual differences in predator escape performance in ungulates and fish, but not in birds. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sex- and latitude-specific predator escape performance underlies the differential nonbreeding distribution of western sandpipers (Calidris mauri), a migratory shorebird. Females overwinter further south along the American Pacific coast, creating a latitudinal cline in sex ratio. Escape performance is reduced with increasing body mass, and birds generally carry less fat further south. Western sandpipers with poor escape performance were therefore predicted to prefer southern sites to reduce the risk of mortality posed by predators. Data from four nonbreeding latitudes showed that wing loading, used as an index of escape performance, was overall higher for females, and that it decreased with latitude in both sexes. Within latitudes, wing loading was lower at smaller, and presumably more dangerous, sites. Flight response to a predatory attack was longer in the south. Mortality risk offers a novel and candidate explanation for differential distribution patterns in western sandpipers and possibly other avian migrants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-50
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • sandpipers calidris-mauri
  • take-off ability
  • western sandpipers
  • body-mass
  • wintering dunlins
  • raptor predation
  • stopover site
  • risk
  • segregation
  • population

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