Mortality-minimizing sandpipers vary stopover behavior dependent on age and geographic proximity to migrating predators

D.D. Hope, D.B. Lank, R.C. Ydenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological theory for long-distance avian migration considers time-, energy-, and mortality-minimizing tactics, but predictions about the latter have proven elusive. Migrants must make behavioral decisions that can favor either migratory speed or safety from predators, but often not both. We compare the behavior of adult and juvenile western sandpipers Calidris mauri during the course of their temporally segregated passages at a major stopover site. Here, the passage and winter arrival of an important predator, the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus begins near the end of the adult sandpiper passage (July) and increases rapidly through the juvenile passage (August). The mortality-minimizing hypothesis predicts that as the falcon front is distant but approaching, sandpipers should initially increase the fuel-loading rate (lowered vigilance and predator apprehension) to increase migration speed and so maintain their head start. As the falcon front gains proximity to and passes over the stopover site, sandpipers should become increasingly cautious. Our measurements show that adults decreased vigilance during the period prior to falcon arrival, and had lower vigilance overall than juveniles. Juveniles were more apprehensive, flying further and longer in response to disturbance by a falcon silhouette. This trend was reversed in response to a human approach. Both groups were more vigilant and more apprehensive in a study year with earlier falcon arrival. These results suggest that late (juvenile) and early (adult) migrants minimize mortality on migration in different ways, adults by increased migratory speed at the expense of caution on stopover sites, and juveniles by increased caution at the expense of speed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-838
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • calidris-mauri
  • western sandpipers
  • site selection
  • trade-offs
  • group-size
  • sex-ratio
  • danger
  • vigilance
  • birds
  • risk

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