North American migratory shorebirds have declined markedly since the 1980s, underscoring the importance of population surveys to conduct status and trend assessments. Shorebird surveys were conducted during three multi-year periods between 1985 and 2014 and used to assess changes in numbers and species composition at the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats, Puerto Rico, USA, a site of regional importance in the eastern Caribbean. Eight fewer species (total = 21) were recorded in 2013–2014 as compared to the 29 from 1985–1992; all eight species were Nearctic migrants. Small calidrids had the highest population counts; however, this suite of species and all others experienced a ≥ 70% decline. Combined counts from the salt flats and neighboring wetlands in 2013–2014 were lower than counts only from the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats in two previous multi-year survey periods, which indicated a real change in numbers not just a shift in wetland use. Invertebrate prey density was lower in 2013–2014 than in 1994. Body fat condition of Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), an index of habitat quality, did not differ between 1985–1992 and 2013–2014. These findings do not exclude the possibility that other species might be affected by lower prey density, or that local declines in numbers reflect changes at hemispheric, not local, scales. The magnitude of change between local and hemispheric scales closely matched for some species. Continued monitoring at the salt flats is warranted to help gauge the status of shorebirds in Puerto Rico and discern the probable cause of declines. Monitoring other sites in the Caribbean is needed for stronger inferences about regional status and trends.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2