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Declines in migrant shorebird populations from a winter‐quarter perspective

Simmons, Robert E., Kolberg, Holger, Braby, Rod, Erni, Birgit
Conservation biology 2015 v.29 no.3 pp. 877-887
Arenaria interpres, Calidris canutus, Charadrius, Phoenicopteridae, models, monitoring, time series analysis, water birds, wetlands, Namibia
Many long‐distance migrating shorebird (i.e., sandpipers, plovers, flamingos, oystercatchers) populations are declining. Although regular shorebird monitoring programs exist worldwide, most estimates of shorebird population trends and sizes are poor or nonexistent. We built a state‐space model to estimate shorebird population trends. Compared with more commonly used methods of trend estimation, state‐space models are more mechanistic, allow for the separation of observation and state process, and can easily accommodate multivariate time series and nonlinear trends. We fitted the model to count data collected from 1990 to 2013 on 18 common shorebirds at the 2 largest coastal wetlands in southern Africa, Sandwich Harbour (a relatively pristine bay) and Walvis Bay (an international harbor), Namibia. Four of the 12 long‐distance migrant species declined since 1990: Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), and Red Knot (Calidris canutus). Populations of resident species and short‐distance migrants increased or were stable. Similar patterns at a key South African wetland suggest that shorebird populations migrating to southern Africa are declining in line with the global decline, but local conditions in southern Africa's largest wetlands are not contributing to these declines. State‐space models provide estimates of population levels and trends and could be used widely to improve the current state of water bird estimates.