- 1Roost-site selection in shorebirds is governed by ambient factors, including environmental conditions and human disturbance. Determination of the extent to which these factors affect roost use and the associated implications for shorebird habitat protection is important for conservation strategies and informed management of human recreational use of these habitats. Shorebird conservation as a whole is a high priority world-wide because a large proportion of shorebird species is in decline. However, little is understood about the consistency of roost use by different species, what conditions affect species-specific roost-site selection, and at what spatial and temporal scales conditions influence selection.
- 2We studied high-tide roost-site selection by eight species of non-breeding shorebirds on a critically important stopover and wintering refuge. We calculated spatial and temporal variability in roost use for each species based on counts and consistency of incidence. We then examined roost-site selection in relation to structural, environmental and human disturbance factors, and how this varied across spatial and temporal scales.
- 3Most roosts were used less than 50% of the time, although larger roosts were used more consistently. This varied among species, with red knot Calidris canutus tending to concentrate at a few roosts and American oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus, dowitcher Limnodromus griseus and Limnodromus scolopaceus and ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres more diffusely distributed among roosts.
- 4At an annual scale, the principal factors affecting shorebird presence at roosts were roost length (size), local region, substrate and aspect. The extent and direction of these effects varied among species. Among years, red knots avoided roosts that had high average boat activity within 1000 m, but disturbance did not appear to be a factor for other species.
- 5Daily roost use was influenced primarily by wind speed and the ability of roosts to provide shelter from the wind. Only dowitchers appeared to track daily disturbance, avoiding prospective roosts when boat activity within 100 m was high.
- 6Synthesis and applications. Our findings emphasize the need to consider species-specific differences in temporal- and spatial-scale effects of roost-site selection factors, including human disturbance, when employing conservation measures for shorebirds. We suggest that conservation management should aim to provide a wide range of potential roosts (both natural and artificial) that could be used under different wind conditions and that are within reasonable travelling distance of preferred feeding areas. Roost use is often highly variable, and monitoring efforts must take this into account before making inferences about changes in use or selection of roost sites.