How Nature Works: Barrier Island Foraging Strategies
During the migration winter, there are some sites where you can’t believe the volume of bird activity and diversity of species. Locations that attract migratory birds. One of them is Louisiana’s barrier islands. This transitory ribbon of fragile sandy islands stands between Louisiana’s wetlands and the broad, rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They provide the sole sandy habitat in the area, allowing large flocks of birds to feed on the Mississippi Delta’s abundant food.
Birds from all across the continent congregate there during migration and throughout the winter. The Sanderling in this picture is from the High Arctic. The Long-billed curlew is a bird that comes from the western prairies. The boreal forest of Canada is home to the least sandpiper. Western Sandpipers and Western Sandpipers are both found along Alaska’s western shore.
During the year, up to 30 shorebird species visit the islands. They join the pelicans, terns, skimmers, and other year-round residents.
The habitat appears consistent at first glance, but the diversity in shapes, sizes, bill types, and behaviors shows a considerably more complex picture. Different species forage in their preferred micro-habitats, employing their specialized equipment to capture certain prey sizes and varieties. The Long-billed Curlew, our largest shorebird, is one that really sticks out. They have a long, d-curved bill that allows them to reach objects deeper in the sand than any other species.
You’ll see them going along, and occasionally they’ll sprint forward. They’ve spotted a crab or something else that’s darted down into its burrow. They’ll take this long bill, shove it down into the hole, and begin feeling around with the sensitive tip of the bill to find the prey item. They’ve evolved to reach burrow-dwelling invertebrates like crabs and shrimp that live deeper in the sand. They find the majority of them by forging in the higher tidal areas where the substrate is drier and firmer. These tall, beautiful shorebirds are known as marbled godwits. They have a thirty-year life expectancy. They’re frequently found in tiny flocks foraging in shallow water and following a receding tide.
And they’re more of a tactile forager, so they’re using this long slightly up raised bill. They continually dig their sensitive bill into the sand in regions where they have a good chance of finding the food they’re looking for, which includes small bivalves like clams and various sorts of marine worms. The Ruddy Turnstone is a fascinating bird to observe. They feed in a fairly opportunistic manner and use a variety of foraging techniques. Their bodies and all of their parts are design in such a way that they have a lot of leverage and strength while pushing objects about, walking, and clambering over items on the beach.
They have a stocky, strong small body, as well as short, muscular legs and feet. They have a short, powerful bill, and they rely on these characteristics to move things around. They’re out there flipping over shells, ripping through seaweed, pushing with their bodies, digging things up, and feeding on little crustaceans and invertebrates.
Western sandpipers, like many other extremely small sandpipers. Forage mostly by probing and pecking at the moist surface for a very small size class of organisms. It’s fascinating to observe them because they’re foraging and you don’t see them catching anything. They’re pecking, probing, and sifting through wet sand on a regular basis, and you know they’re eating something. Their speed and reflexes are so much faster than ours that we can’t tell what they’re eating. They’re simply on a never-ending quest for food. Piping plovers and Semi-palmated plovers forage in a kind of run-stop-run pattern.
They’ll sprint for a short distance, then stop to examine the area around them, spot something, then sprint to grab it. They mostly use sight to forge. They have huge eyes, excellent vision, and a little, short beak that prevents them from delving too deeply into the substrate.
They’re locating things on the surface by sight and repeatedly rushing over and grasping them. They’ll also employ the strategy of putting one foot out in front of them and wriggling it on the surface, which may cause possible prey to flee, allowing them to better see them.
The foraging strategy of reddish egrets is fascinating to observe. They’re basically herding and flushing small schools of fish in the shallows by racing, leaping, and extending their wings. They’re essentially corralling the fish and attempting to corner them in the shallows, with the goal of chasing one down and spearing this nice fish out of the water. The richness of the environments found in Louisiana’s barrier islands is reveal by the number and diversity of birds. For many species, these environments are intrinsically link to their survival.