Environment Shorebirds take parenting in shifts

Shorebirds take parenting in shifts

Ongoing research into shorebird migration has revealed surprising information about the birds’ parenting habits.

Professor Marcel Klaassen, Director of Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology (CIE) has used tracking devices to examine how the birds are incubating and sharing parental roles and how they protect their eggs.

The research revealed that shorebirds adapt their behaviour to take shifts to look after their nests.

However, this behaviour varies widely between different species.

“Plovers, for example, never incubate for longer than 12 hours at a time, but sandpipers will sit on their nest for nearly a whole day at a time,” Professor Klaassen said.

The way the two parents synchronise their rhythms seemed to be linked to how the birds fend off predators.

Birds that actively led predators away from the nest tended to have shorter incubation bouts, whereas those that relied on camouflage incubated for longer.

Professor Klassen says that understanding the birds’ parenting behaviour is important if we don’t want them to disappear from our shores.

“They are suffering from climate change and the irreparable destruction of their habitat on the coastlines they visit during migration,” he says.

You can read more about the study’s findings here. Story credit: Deakin University newsroom

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