In species of birds with biparental care, each sex may have its own energy requirements and/or schedule for feeding, possibly leading the sexes to differ in foraging strategy. In estuaries, shorebirds such as the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus) may forage on intertidal mudflats and in adjacent supratidal habitats during winter as well as during the breeding season. In this study, we analyzed the diet, use of foraging habitat, food-intake rate (biomass ingested per unit time), and time allocated to foraging by male and female Kentish Plovers at both seasons in an estuary near Cádiz, Spain, where intertidal mudflats and adjacent salt works are the main habitats for foraging. The plovers' main prey was the rag worm (Nereis diversicolor), an intertidal polychaete that supplied more than 80% of the biomass consumed at each season. During the breeding season, both sexes increased their intake rate and decreased their daylight foraging time. By increasing the diurnal intake rate during the breeding season, the birds minimized their time spent foraging on the intertidal mudflats, allowing them to maximize the time for activities associated with breeding in the adjacent salt works. Therefore, the plovers solved the conflict between foraging on the mudflats and breeding in the salt works by shortening the foraging time on the mudflats, minimizing time away from the nesting areas. The sexes differed in the daylight time allocated to foraging, with females spending 2 hr less on foraging and concentrating their feeding activity into the central hours of low tide.
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Vol. 111 • No. 4