Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



McCarty JP, Jorgensen JG, Wolfenbarger LL (2009) Behavior of Buff-Breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis) during Migratory Stopover in Agricultural Fields. PLoS ONE 4(11): e8000. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008000


Copyright 2009 McCarty et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,


Background: Understanding the behavior of birds in agricultural habitats can be the first step in evaluating the conservation implications of birds’ use of landscapes shaped by modern agriculture. The existence and magnitude of risk from agricultural practices and the quality of resources agricultural lands provide will be determined largely by how birds use these habitats. Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis) are a species of conservation concern. During spring migration large numbers of Buff-breasted Sandpipers stopover in row crop fields in the Rainwater Basin region of Nebraska. We used behavioral observations as a first step in evaluating how Buff-breasted Sandpipers use crop fields during migratory stopover.

Methodology/Principal Findings: We measured behavior during migratory stopover using scan and focal individual sampling to determine how birds were using crop fields. Foraging was the most frequent behavior observed, but the intensity of foraging changed over the course of the day with a distinct mid-day low point. Relative to other migrating shorebirds, Buff-breasted Sandpipers spent a significant proportion of their time in social interactions including courtship displays.

Conclusions/Significance: Our results show that the primary use of upland agricultural fields by migrating Buff-breasted Sandpipers is foraging while wetlands are used for maintenance and resting. The importance of foraging in row crop fields suggests that both the quality of food resources available in fields and the possible risks from dietary exposure to agricultural chemicals will be important to consider when developing conservation plans for Buff-breasted Sandpipers migrating through the Great Plains.