Between-site variation in the diet and foraging behaviour of a fixed-method forager, the Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, and a versatile forager, the Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, was examined and compared at nine tropical and south temperate sites. Grey Plover always foraged in a run-stop-search manner but changed the emphasis of components of this behaviour in response to prey type. Whimbrel foraged tactilely or visually and readily changed foraging speed and habitat. Both species ate a variety of prey species depending on their availability. The diet of Grey Plover was dominated by small prey, polychaetes and crabs, and Whimbrel ate mostly crabs, with Whimbrel being the more specialized in prey choice. The broader diversity of prey types consumed by Grey Plover was attributed to limitations imposed by obligate visual foraging, whereas the flexible foraging behaviour of Whimbrel allowed the latter to concentrate their efforts on the most profitable prey. Grey Plover appeared to have a density upper limit, determined by their stereotyped foraging behaviour. Whimbrel densities varied greatly in response to prey type and foraging method. Foraging effort could not be predicted from measurements of instantaneous daytime energy intake rates, and reasons for the lack of this relationship are discussed.
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