Shorebirds, Stakeholders, and Competing Claims to the Beach and Intertidal Habitat in Delaware Bay, New Jersey, USA

Joanna Burger, Lawrence Niles
2017 Natural Science  
Birds have specific habitat needs as a function of their life cycle and reproductive stage. Migrant shorebirds that may fly from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America have foraging and habitat requirements at sites where they stop to refuel before continuing their migration north or south. Throughout the world, shorebirds mainly forage on mudflats at low tide. Red knots (Calidris canutus rufa) are threatened in the United States and elsewhere, and it is critical to determine factors
more » ... determine factors that might contribute to their decline. This paper uses Delaware Bay as a case study to examine shorebird (and red knot) use of the intertidal habitat, and competing claims to habitats they require during their northward migration, as well as some of the key stakeholders that play a role in protecting red knots. Shorebirds are drawn to Delaware Bay to feed on the eggs of Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus polyphemus) that are concentrated at the high tide. But they also feed on the intertidal mudflat. We examined intertidal habitat use on 17 beaches in an extensive study in 2015, and 5 key beaches in 2016. Most of the beaches were longitudinal, but four were more complex, and were used extensively for resting as well as foraging; numbers there were higher than on the longitudinal beaches. On foraging beaches, some shorebirds were present on over 85% of the intertidal censuses, and red knots were present on over 48% of the intertidal censuses. Average numbers of red knots on the longitudinal beaches varied from 0 to 354 ± 116 when any shorebirds were present, but averaged up to 1184 ± 634 when knots were present in 2015. Some beaches in 2015 had no knots (a beach with long-term aquaculture). Tide, intertidal location, and beach (name) determined the number of knots (and all shorebirds). Numbers decreased with distance from the mean high tide line. The average number of knots present in the intertidal mudflats two hours before or after low tide when knots were present (e.g. no censuses with zeros) was 2040 Open Access 182 Natural Science (=maximum flock size, in 2015) . Major threats to red knots are from recreationists, overfishing of horseshoe crabs (reduction in egg prey base), and use of the intertidal by aquaculture. We discuss the role of stakeholders in conservation and protection of red knots.
doi:10.4236/ns.2017.96019 fatcat:qw3m74vkofb6lgxxeqdw4vxyq4