Techniques most commonly used to estimate migratory shorebird abundance often yield estimates with a wide margin of error, and fail to consider extent of habitat use. This study was designed to investigate whether observation of percentage of a given area covered by shorebird footprints may be useful in obtaining accurate estimates of habitat use. Flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) foraging on mudflats in the upper Bay of Fundy, Canada, were videotaped and percent-cover by footprints was observed upon their departure. Through review of the videotapes, habitat use was determined in bird-seconds m-2 (sum of time each individual was present divided by the area observed). There was a strong positive, non-linear relationship between percent-cover and habitat use, which suggests that the former can be used to estimate the latter. A theoretical value for habitat use resulting in 100% footprint cover, beyond which the method would be ineffective, was calculated. Observed values did not approach this upper limit, and in other related studies 100% cover has rarely been noted, suggesting that this technique is appropriate for use in the Bay of Fundy and in other similar settings.
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Vol. 30 • No. 1