The conditions that determine habitat suitability for waterbirds on temporary wetlands in Australia are poorly understood. This study describes the foraging behavior of the Black-fronted Plover (Elseyornis melanops) on two shallow saline lagoons with variable water depths. When water levels were receding, areas were left exposed around the periphery of the lagoons, which formed a succession from substrates still covered by water, to wet mud with a surface layer of water, to moist firm mud and eventually to dry, hard mud. The plovers showed a strong preference for feeding in areas of moist, firm mud and their prey capture rates were highest in this substrate type. When water levels rose following rainfall, previously exposed areas were partially flooded and the birds’ prey capture rates fell significantly. Most abandoned the lagoon. The species was thus highly dependent on receding water levels to provide suitable foraging conditions.
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Vol. 27 • No. 3