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Cliff top habitats provide important alternative feeding resources for wading birds of conservation importance wintering on non-estuarine coasts

Furnell, Julie; Hull, Susan L.


Julie Furnell

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Dr Sue Hull
Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Ecology/ Programme Director, Marine Biology


Rocky shores and beaches are important over-wintering areas for non-estuarine waders but have rarely been studied. We examined cliff top habitat use by 6 species of wader over 75 km of coast to assess their potential value as alternative feeding sites to rocky and sandy shores. Both the regional and local survey showed that waders occurred on golf courses and recreational grasslands in higher frequencies than expected but arable and pasture use was lower than expected. We also compared local wader densities on rocky and sandy shores, pastures, golf courses, caravan parks and recreational grasslands over two winters. Sanderling predominantly fed on the beach whereas Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank numbers significantly increased on golf courses and recreational grasslands over the winter period, with pasture being rarely used. General linear models were used to relate environmental factors to the presence and absence of each species on the cliff top habitats. Redshank was the only species that showed a higher probability of occurrence on cliff top habitats at high tide whereas the probability of Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Redshank occurring increased as temperatures declined. Using core sampling, we determined that invertebrate richness and abundance was significantly higher on the recreational grasslands and golf courses than on the pasture or the beach. Our data demonstrated that cliff top habitats are important alternative feeding areas for over-wintering waders in areas where the intertidal is bounded by cliffs. Current management creates short sward, open field habitats with a diverse and abundant invertebrate food supply exploited by waders. Any alterations to the land use of these areas should be carefully considered by planning authorities in light of the fact that they support species that are of conservation concern.


Furnell, J., & Hull, S. L. (2014). Cliff top habitats provide important alternative feeding resources for wading birds of conservation importance wintering on non-estuarine coasts. Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 139, 119-126.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 24, 2013
Online Publication Date Jan 17, 2014
Publication Date Feb 20, 2014
Deposit Date Sep 29, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Estuarine, coastal and shelf science
Print ISSN 0272-7714
Electronic ISSN 1096-0015
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 139
Pages 119-126
Keywords Sandy shore; Rocky shore; Cliff top habitats; Intertidal; Habitat use; Waders; Invertebrate abundance
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Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 2014, v.139


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© 2014, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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