Wetlands in the Playa Lakes Region (PLR) provide important habitats for wintering waterfowl, cranes, and both migrant and breeding shorebirds. Playa Lakes Region wetlands experience naturally fluctuating hydroperiods but are exposed to anthropogenic stresses, which are exacerbated during summer and may influence PLR wet-land occupancy and selection by breeding shorebirds. We examined wetland-scale habitat use and nest-site selection of the 4 dominant shorebirds (American avocets [Recurvirostra americana], black-necked stilts [Himantopus mexicanus], killdeer [Charadrius vociferus], snowy plovers [C. alexandrinus]) nesting in playas, saline lakes, and in both created and riparian wetlands in the PLR of Texas, USA. All 4 species nested in saline lakes. Only avocets and killdeer nested in playas, and snowy plovers nested in riparian wetlands. No nests were found in created wetlands. Wetland habitat changed (P < 0.001) during the breeding season, while water habitats generally decreased. Used (i.e., shorebirds found nesting) wetlands had more (P < 0.05) mudflats than non-used (i.e., shorebirds not found nesting) wetlands, which had more (P < 0.05) dry habitats. Used and non-used wetlands had similar (P > 0.05) amounts of water habitats. Nests were located close to vegetation on bare dry ground and dry ground with vegetation. Because water is ephemeral in PLR wetlands, shorebirds must select—in a somewhat predictive manner upon arrival—wetlands with suitable nest-site and brood-rearing habitat. Although surface water is necessary for nesting, its presence is not adequate for delineating suitable PLR wetland habitat for breeding shorebirds. Our findings that created wetlands cannot compensate for regional wetland losses in habitat or function highlights the need for conservation of natural PLR wetlands.
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Vol. 69 • No. 1