Exploring survival rates among migratory shorebirds
The extensive reclamation schemes currently underway on the staging grounds in South Korea and China may lead to reductions in the quality of the available staging sites, with a high likelihood of considerable downstream effects on reproduction and survival.
Now is the time to put a monitoring scheme in place to assess these changes. While counts of shorebirds at non-breeding sites in Australia may provide an alternative method, the advantage of estimates of survivorship is that less variance is associated with the data and that predictive information is gained.
With the implementation of this research project based on the individual marking of good samples of birds every year, with the collection of decent sample sizes of resightings to follow up their annual survival, all of the world’s four subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwits and all six subspecies and flyways of Red Knots will be under detailed demographic scrutiny by scientist united under the umbrella of the Global Flyway Network (GFN).
With the addition of the closely related Great Knots to the scheme, this worldwide effort has the potential for unprecedented insights in the demographic structure and population dynamics of long-distance migrant shorebirds. Never before have migrant birds been studied over such spatial scales and in such detail.
Engaging the wider community
- The presence of individually recognisable birds of three shorebird species and the relative ease of resighting them in the vicinity of the Broome Bird Observatory along the northern shores of Roebuck Bay offers unprecedented scope for education and training.
- Observing anonymous flocks of shorebirds is something, but identifying individuals and then being able to search the records for their histories is something else. The individual colour banding scheme provides a golden opportunity for novel forms of education for locals and visitors alike.