Breeding Wader Ecology

Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe and Redshank are primarily associated with a range of farmland habitats, particularly lowland wet grassland. All four are ground nesting birds, nesting on damp or dry land, generally within the field and away from the perimeter. Lapwing nest in a shallow scrape with little or no lining in very short grass or bare ground; Redshank in tussocks, usually grass - of the type left by cattle when grazing a field, while Curlew tend to nest in or beside such tussocks. Snipe typically nest in rush, sedge or grass tussocks.

Breeding waders generally prefer open fields with clear views and an absence of hedges or stand alone trees or bushes, which can be used as perching posts by avian predators. This is particularly so for Lapwing, whose nests are the most visible. 

Lapwing nest © A. Copland

Redshank nest © A. Copland

Chicks are self feeding and leave the nest as soon as all four hatch. They feed on aquatic invertebrates; ideal chick feeding habitat is wet, muddy areas, with sparse vegetation, a high water-table or shallow gradient into areas of standing water such as rivers, drains or lakes. These conditions can be easily created by stock grazing and / or drinking from the edges of a river or drain. Adults lead their chicks to suitable feeding areas, keep watch for predators and brood them at night or during poor weather.

Chick feeding habitat © K. Finney

In the Callows pair formation starts around the beginning of February for Redshank who are often the first to return from their wintering grounds. Redshank breed for life (determined as 5 years, although they can live longer than this and consequently can have more than one partner over their lifetime). Often birds return to the same area as the previous year’s nest site to meet up and breed. New pair formation is a time consuming and noisy affair for Redshank, males spending much of their time displaying to attract a female. After a successful engagement period of about four weeks a pair bond is formed which will be re-established each year, unless the birds divorce and pair again! Lapwing and Snipe form a new pair bond each year, as do Curlew (although there is evidence to suggest that some Curlew re-establish bonds over successive years). Late February and March is a nosy time at key breeding sites (such as Inishee Island, Co Galway) as all four species display, establish a pair bond and defend their territories.    

No comments:

Post a Comment