Annual and Seasonal Variation in Shorebird Abundance in the St. Lawrence River Estuary during Fall Migration


  • Yves Turcotte College de La Pocatiere
  • Jean-Francois Lamarre
  • Joel Bety



Calidris pusilla, conservation, ecology, fall migration, migration timing, Semipalmated Sandpiper, shorebirds, St. Lawrence River Estuary, staging site, survey


Many north American shorebird populations are declining. it is therefore urgent to identify major sites used during their annual cycle to achieve effective conservation measures. our objective was to expand some aspects of the knowledge base needed to assess the ecological value of the St. Lawrence River Estuary for shorebird conservation. Here, we present the results of the most intensive shorebird survey ever conducted in the St. Lawrence River Estuary during fall migration. Surveys were conducted between St-Jean-Port-Joli and St-Simon-sur-Mer, Quebec, Canada, in 2011 and 2012, from late June/early July through late november, corresponding to the migration period of all species potentially present in the study area. The Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) was one of the two most abundant species during both years of our study (most abundant species, followed by Dunlin [Calidris alpina] and Black-bellied Plover [Pluvialis squatarola] in 2011; second to Blackbellied Plover in 2012). Considering the entire shorebird community, abundance of individuals peaked in early September. Peak abundance occurred earlier for adults than for juveniles. For most species, juveniles largely outnumbered adults. Juveniles were relatively less abundant in 2012 than in 2011. This reflected a general trend observed in northeastern north America between those years, suggesting a lower breeding success in 2012. Given its importance as a staging site for juvenile birds (study area used annually by up to a few hundred thousand shorebirds) and therein, its conservation value, we recommend that the St. Lawrence River Estuary should be included within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve network.

Author Biography

Yves Turcotte, College de La Pocatiere

Departement des sciences et techniques biologiques