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Data from: Heat stress increases risk taking in foraging shorebirds

Cite this dataset

Gutiérrez, Jorge et al. (2023). Data from: Heat stress increases risk taking in foraging shorebirds [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Animals often face a trade-off between food acquisition and predation/disturbance avoidance. Yet the extent to which this trade-off is affected by modulating factors such as thermal risk and foraging opportunities has been largely overlooked.

2. Here, we examined the influence of temporal and environmental gradients on the flight initiation distance (FID, the distance at which animals flee from an approaching human-simulated predator) and escape mode (flying/low risk versus running/low cost) in 16 species of shorebirds foraging on tidal flats of the Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau. We measured escape responses throughout the low tide period during wet and dry seasons and simultaneously recorded microclimate variables and occurrence of heat-reduction behaviour (ptiloerection). Furthermore, we measured corticosterone metabolites (CORTm) from droppings in red knots Calidris canutus to assess whether ptiloerection is associated to a physiological stress response to hot conditions.

3. Overall, birds tolerated a closer approach at higher environmental temperatures and when showing ptiloerection. They also had shorter FIDs during the dry season and towards the start/end of the low tide period. FIDs also increased with body mass and decreased in areas with more human presence. In red knots, individuals showing ptiloerection had higher levels of CORTm, demonstrating a link between physiological and behavioural stress coping responses to heat events.

4. Our results suggest that heat-stressed shorebirds take greater risks, supporting the idea of a thermoregulation–predation risk trade-off. They also indicate that shorebirds adjust risk taking to tidal and seasonal cycles, generally reducing FIDs when the energetic costs of escape are expected to be large. Finally, they suggest that shorebirds habituate to non-lethal human presence and respond to perceived predation risk in accordance with the predictions of optimal escape theory.

5. These results are relevant to many animals that face a tight window for foraging activity while being exposed to predation/disturbance and heat during the day. We discuss management implications of our results in the context of global change.

Usage notes

All analyses were performed in R 4.0.2 (R Core Team, 2020)All data files (.csv) can be opened with R or other programs.


Mava Foundation, Award: 17166

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Award: PTDC/BIA-ECO/28205/2017

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Award: 2021.00573.CEECIND

Centro de Estudos Ambientais e Marinhos, Award: UIDP/50017/2020+UIDB/50017/2020+ LA/P/0094/2020

Government of Extremadura, Award: TA18001