Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) use coastal wetlands in the southeastern United States during spring migration, some engaging in short-distance movements and brief refueling stops. Knowledge about the scale and factors that influence these movements could guide conservation planning, but often this information is not available. The influence of inter-wetland distance, prey biomass, amount of foraging habitat at depths of 0–4 cm, and density of migrating Semipalmated Sandpipers on their movement and stopover residency was investigated at the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center in South Carolina in spring 2007. Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center contains three clusters of coastal wetlands separated by 2.6, 2.8 and 4.1 km. Probability of moving among wetland clusters and stopover residency were estimated using multi-state mark-recapture models and encounter histories from 502 marked Semipalmated Sandpipers. Sixty-four percent of Semipalmated Sandpipers remained within 2 km of site-of-capture for the duration of the study. Movement probabilities were negatively influenced by inter-cluster distance and Semipalmated Sandpiper density. Probability of moving between clusters 2.6–2.8 km apart was higher than clusters separated by 4.1 km. Semipalmated Sandpipers were more likely to depart the study area and resume migration after feeding in wetland clusters with abundant prey and accessible habitat. The interaction between prey and accessible habitat led to instances where Semipalmated Sandpipers were more likely to remain in wetlands with low prey levels, but high accessible habitat, or low accessible habitat, but high prey levels. Local movements among alternative foraging locations were facilitated when wetlands were < 2.8 km apart, highlighting the benefits of integrated management at small scales.
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