Predator revival sparks dunlin weight loss

Jan 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s a weight loss plan with life or death consequences. If you’re a dunlin, chances are you’re spending more time flying than eating.

According to a team of Simon Fraser University researchers, the average Pacific dunlin has lost weight - two to four grams over the past four decades - due largely to the return of a key predator, the .

SFU ecologist Ron Ydenberg, whose team has tracked data on dunlins going back 40 years, says the “tremendous and steady” increase in peregrine falcons follows the 1973 banning of , which prompted the revival of several species and led to the falcons being taken off the .

Dunlins breed in Alaska and can be seen by the hundreds of thousands wintering in Boundary Bay. “Since the revival of the peregrine falcons, dunlins have had to manage the danger, and instead of roosting on the foreshore at high tide they spend hours flying around,” says Ydenberg, whose researchers also use radar units to monitor dunlin activity. “It’s simply safer.”

Dunlins typically stored fat reserves through the autumn months in order to survive when food was short during harsh Canadian winters.

While ‘over-ocean flocking’ eats up energy the researchers say the risk from predators is now greater than the threat of starvation.

Researchers are winding up their fieldwork for the season but say their research, published this month in the online journal BMC Ecology, will continue.

Explore further: Genetic study shows major impact of climate change on Antarctic fur seals

Provided by Simon Fraser University

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shorebirds shape up and ship out

Jan 20, 2010

Some Canadian shorebirds have had to get fit or die trying. Research published in the open access journal BMC Ecology has found that the average Pacific dunlin has lost weight and spends more time in flight as a response to the ...

Webcam follows Peregrine Falcons

Mar 26, 2009

A rare couple of Peregrine Falcons nesting atop Warsaw's landmark Stalinist-era Palace of Culture could gain a global following after the launch Thursday of a webcam site showing their nest.

Rare falcons shot in Cyprus

Oct 12, 2007

Hunters in Cyprus have shot about 50 endangered red-footed falcons, which migrate through the island in the spring and fall.

Will lemmings fall off climate change cliff?

Apr 20, 2007

Contrary to popular belief, lemmings do not commit mass suicide by leaping off of cliffs into the sea. In fact, they are quite fond of staying alive. A bigger threat to the rodents is climate change, which ...

Recommended for you

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

2 hours ago

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

Noise pollution impacts fish species differently

5 hours ago

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter which tested fish anti-predator behaviour.

Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles

5 hours ago

Invertebrate numbers have decreased by 45% on average over a 35 year period in which the human population doubled, reports a study on the impact of humans on declining animal numbers. This decline matters because of the enormous ...

Insecticides similar to nicotine widespread in Midwest

6 hours ago

Insecticides similar to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, were found commonly in streams throughout the Midwest, according to a new USGS study. This is the first broad-scale investigation of neonicotinoid ...

User comments : 0