As many as 30 species of shorebirds migrate to Louisiana’s barrier islands each year. With so many migrants crowding in to join the year-round residents, you might be wondering how all of these birds find enough to eat. The answer is that each species has its own microhabitat as well as its own feeding techniques. For example, the Long-billed Curlew probes deep into the sand to reach burrow-dwelling crabs and shrimp. The small, stocky Ruddy Turnstone flips over shells, pulls through seaweed, and digs in search of little crustaceans and other small invertebrates. Piping Plovers and Semipalmated Plovers have a “run-stop-run” foraging method. They locate prey on the surface by sight, then run over and grab them. The Reddish Egret corrals groups of small fish in the shallows. Eventually, it chases one down and spears it out of the water. Small differences in foraging behavior and beak shape allow each bird species to find its own niche.

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