• behavior;
  • diversity;
  • habitat heterogeneity;
  • landscape matrix;
  • mudflats;
  • restoration;
  • shorebirds


Habitat restoration can partially compensate for the extensive loss of coastal wetlands, but creation of functional habitat and assessment of restoration success remain challenging tasks. To evaluate wintering shorebird use of restored coastal wetlands, we quantified shorebird assemblages and behavior of selected focal species at five restored sites and paired reference sites in Mugu Lagoon, southern California, United States. The Shannon–Wiener index of species diversity (for all birds in order Charadriiformes) was higher in the restored than in the reference portion of three of the five sites, higher in the reference portion of a fourth site, and similar between reference and restored areas of the fifth site. Species diversity was lower in sites closer to man-made structures. The four most abundant species groups across the five sites were selected for detailed analysis of site use and behavior: Willets (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa), Dowitchers (Limnodromus spp.), and Sandpipers (Calidris spp.) (Western, Least, and Dunlin). Each focal species group exhibited distinct site preferences, and densities in restored sites were often as high or higher than in reference sites. Willets and Dowitchers preferred habitats with more extensive tidal flats, a characteristic of restored sites. Godwits and Sandpipers preferred heterogeneous habitats with a mix of water and tidal flats. Most birds were engaged in feeding activities during the ebb tides surveyed, and there were no apparent differences in behavior between reference and restored sites. Though not all restored sites were used equally by all species, the creation of multiple restored sites with varied habitat characteristics attracted a diverse assemblage of shorebirds and may have contributed to the integrity of the regional wetland landscape.