Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bird buffet requires surveillance: Sandpipers exhibit different feeding behavior depending on position in group

Date:
October 28, 2013
Source:
Universite de Montreal
Summary:
The behavior of semipalmated sandpipers feeding during low tide in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, surprised researchers. While individuals on the periphery remained alert and used short pecks to feed on the mudflats, birds in the middle of the group relaxed their vigilance and fed on a different resource. The more peripheral group members were effectively used as sentinels for the others.

Sandpipers exhibit different feeding behaviour depending on position in group.
Credit: Image courtesy of Universite de Montreal

The behaviour of semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) feeding during low tide in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, surprised Guy Beauchamp, an ornithologist and research officer at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. While individuals on the periphery remained alert and used short pecks to feed on the mudflats, birds in the middle of the group relaxed their vigilance and fed on a different resource. The more peripheral group members were effectively used as sentinels for the others.

Related Articles


Two observation seasons were needed to confirm this never-before-documented behaviour. The phenomenon attracted the attention of Britain's Royal Society, which has just published the results of Beauchamp's research in the most recent edition of its Biology Letters. "Both foraging modes are easy to distinguish," Beauchamp explained. "In the first case, the birds keep their heads upright while pecking at their food rapidly; they are on the lookout for predators. In the second case, their heads are kept low while they scrape the mud in search of tiny organisms."

Scientists know that living in groups provides individuals with added protection and increases their chances of survival. Beauchamp's discovery provides further information about the precise mechanisms that lead to this advantage. Peripheral birds must be on the lookout for predators (in this case mainly the silhouettes of falcons, which can strike the sandpipers at any moment), allowing the central birds to use different resources. "During their stopover in eastern Canada, sandpipers must optimize their strength to continue their migration. Any advantage helps," Beauchamp said.

It took two sessions of three weeks in the field, in 2011 and 2012, for the biologist to confirm these observations. He observed 466 birds in 43 flocks before drawing his conclusions. They feed on biofilm, which requires a dangerous relaxing of vigilance that is really only possible in the safest part of the group. Biofilm refers to the smorgasbord of diatoms and phytoplankton that sandpipers filter in their beaks in a back-and-forth movement. Their other form of diet consists of amphipods, which the wading birds capture after spotting them visually.

In Beauchamp's field site, north of the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, thousands stop over to feed on the tidal mudflats. "This finding provides a novel benefit of living in groups, which may have a broad relevance given that social foraging species often exploit a large array of resources," he explained. Semipalmated sandpipers are a relatively abundant species whose survival does not appear threatened in the short term. This is not the case for all species of shorebirds, some of which suffer greatly from the ecological imbalances caused by global warming.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universite de Montreal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Beauchamp. Social foragers adopt a riskier foraging mode in the centre of their groups. Biology Letters, 2013; 9 (6): 20130528 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0528

Cite This Page:

Universite de Montreal. "Bird buffet requires surveillance: Sandpipers exhibit different feeding behavior depending on position in group." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028090244.htm>.
Universite de Montreal. (2013, October 28). Bird buffet requires surveillance: Sandpipers exhibit different feeding behavior depending on position in group. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028090244.htm
Universite de Montreal. "Bird buffet requires surveillance: Sandpipers exhibit different feeding behavior depending on position in group." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028090244.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Drinks for Your Health

The Best Drinks for Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) When it comes to health and fitness, there&apos;s lots of talk about what foods to eat, but there are a few liquids that can promote good nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the healthiest drinks to boost your health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) From sweet cherries to sugar snap peas, spring is the peak season for some of the tastiest and healthiest produce. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best seasonal fruits and veggies to spring in to good health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins