Habitat and Ecology
Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is fully migratory1. It breeds from May onwards in solitary pairs or in single- and mixed-species colonies of up to 300 pairs1, 3 or more (e.g. 1,000 pairs in Baltic region)4. Outside of the breeding season the species remains gregarious, foraging in flocks of up to one hundred or more individuals during the winter, flock sizes depending upon the habitat and conditions4. Habitat Breeding The species breeds along the coast1, 2, 4 and inland1, 2, 3, 4 in a variety of sites not necessarily close to wetlands1. On the coast it nests on grassy and rocky cliff-ledges1, 4, grassy slopes2, 4, inshore rocky islets, islands and stacks1, 2, 4, and on sand and shingle beaches, banks and dunes1, 4 amongst tide-wrack or flood debris4. Inland the species nests on small islands in freshwater and saline lakes3, shingle bars or small islets in streams or rivers2, islets, artificial structures and shores of artificial waterbodies with short, sparse vegetation6, and on bogs1, 4, marshes1, meadows1 and grass or heather moorland near small pools2, 4 or lakes4. After the young fledge the species often disperses to coasts, tidal estuaries, agricultural land and reservoirs1, 4. Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season it occupies similar habitats to when it is breeding, although it may occur more frequently along the coast during this period4 on estuaries with low salinities, sandy beaches and estuarine mudflats7. Diet Its diet consists of earthworms, insects, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates1 (e.g. planktonic crustaceans1, crayfish and molluscs3) and small fish1. During the spring the species will also take agricultural grain1 and often scavanges7. Breeding site The nest is a shallow cup of vegetation placed on grass, rock, sand, shingle, earth or floating and marshy vegetation1 in a variety of coastal and inland locations1, 2, 3, 4. The species may also nest off the ground on artificial structures, in nest-boxes and in trees1, 2. Management information The species may benefit from the removal of introduced predators such as American mink Neovison vison from small breeding islands5, and has been known to nest on artificial rafts intended to encourage other species (e.g. Common Tern Sterna hirundo) to breed7.
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