- 1 Interference between foraging animals can be quantified directly only through intensive studies. A quicker alternative is to predict the strength of interference using behaviour-based models. We describe a field method to parameterize an interference model for shorebirds, Charadrii.
- 2 Kleptoparasitic attack distance is the main factor affecting the strength of interference but has rarely been measured. Attack distance is related to handling time, a frequently measured parameter, allowing the model to be parameterized for systems in which attack distance has not been measured.
- 3 The model accurately predicts the strength of interference between oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus L. feeding on cockles Cerastoderma edule L. and the absence of interference between bar-tailed godwits Limosa lapponica L. feeding on lugworms Arenicola marina L. at low competitor densities.
- 4 We predict the strength of interference in black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa L. and oystercatcher systems in which it has not been measured previously. The strength of interference is almost entirely determined by attack distance; interference is stronger in systems with longer attacks. Interference is usually weaker in black-tailed godwits because handling time is generally shorter and this limits attack distance.
- 5 The interference model can be parameterized much more quickly than the alternative of measuring interference directly. Behaviour-based models have the potential to be a valuable tool for predicting the strength of interference.