Habitat selection theory suggests that shorebirds should choose nest sites that maximize survival and fitness. We investigated how habitat, and proximity to conspecific or heterospecific nesting birds, was related to nest-site selection in American Golden-Plovers (Pluvialis dominica), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus), Pectoral Sandpipers (C. melanotos), Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius), and Semipalmated Sandpipers (C. pusilla) in Barrow, Alaska, USA, between 2005 and 2012. We used remote-sensing data to link habitat information to used and unused nest sites, and we measured distances from nests to other nearby nesting shorebird neighbors. Results from an information-theoretic approach to identify best-approximating models indicated that all species selected nest sites on the basis of both habitat and social cues. Macroscale tundra moisture level within 50 m of the nest, which was closely associated with vegetation community, was an informative variable for Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Red Phalarope, which all selected wetter habitat. Enhanced tundra microrelief increased the probability of nest-site selection for American Golden-Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Sandpiper. American Golden-Plover, Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Sandpiper selected sites farther from conspecific nests than predicted by chance. Our results indicate that shorebirds select nest sites on the basis of habitat features, and that some are also influenced by proximity to other nesting shorebirds. These findings indicate that shorebirds select nests that are likely to aid incubation abilities, reduce predator detection of nesting birds, enhance detection of predators, enhance foraging, and reduce competition from conspecifics. The variable needs of the different Arctic-breeding shorebirds indicate that climate change will have both beneficial and harmful consequences. Our habitat models may be useful for predicting areas of high shorebird importance throughout the Arctic Coastal Plain, allowing mitigation of proposed anthropogenic developments.
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Vol. 133 • No. 3