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Data from: Behavioral adjustments in the social associations of a precocial shorebird mediate the costs and benefits of grouping decisions

Cite this dataset

Wilde, Luke; Swift, Rose; Senner, Nathan (2022). Data from: Behavioral adjustments in the social associations of a precocial shorebird mediate the costs and benefits of grouping decisions [Dataset]. Dryad.


Animals weigh multiple costs and benefits when making grouping decisions. The cost-avoidance grouping framework proposes that group density, information quality, and risk affect an individual’s preference for con- or heterospecific groups. However, this assumes the cost-benefit balance of a particular grouping is constant spatiotemporally, which may not always be true. Investigating how spatiotemporal context influences grouping choices is therefore key to understanding how animals contend with changing conditions. 

Changes in body size during development lead to variable conditions for individuals over short timescales that can influence their ecological interactions. Hudsonian godwits (Limosa haemastica), for instance, form a protective nesting association with a major predator of young godwit chicks, colonial short-billed gulls (Larus brachyrhynchus). Godwit broods may avoid areas of higher gull densities when chicks are susceptible to gull predation but likely experience higher risk from alternative predators as a result. Associating with conspecifics could allow godwits to buffer these costs but requires enough other broods with whom to group. 

To determine how age-dependent predation risk and conspecific density influence godwit grouping behaviors, we first quantified the time-dependent effects of con- and heterospecific interactions on the mortality risk for godwit chicks throughout development. We then determined how godwit density and chick age affected their associations with con- and heterospecifics. 

We found that younger godwit chicks’ survival improved with closer association with conspecifics, earlier hatch dates, and lower gull densities, whereas older chicks survived better with earlier hatch dates, though this effect was less clear. Concomitantly, godwit broods avoided gulls early in development and when godwit densities were high but maintained loose associations with conspecifics throughout development. 

We identified how individuals can optimally shift with whom they group according to risks that vary spatially and temporally. Investigating the effects of a species’ ecological interactions across spatiotemporal contexts in this way can shed light on how animals adjust their associations according to the costs and benefits of each association.


We located all Hudsonian godwit (Limosa haemastica) and short-billed gull (Larus brachyrhynchus) nests in two plots near Beluga River, AK from 2009 to 2019. We followed nests to hatch and captured 1-2 chicks per brood to be continuously monitored by VHF telemetry. We resighted chicks to confirm survival every 2-3 days. Mortality was confirmed by carcass recovery or if a chick was not found for 3 consecutive attempts. We recaptured chicks weekly to monitor the attachment media of the radio and collect morphometric data.


Usage notes

Program R v.4.1.0 was used for all analyses.

Use the ReadMe.txt file to work with data.


National Science Foundation, Award: PCE-1110444

National Science Foundation, Award: DGE-114153

Faucett Family Foundation

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Athena Fund at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Arctic Audubon Society

United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Award: 4074

American Ornithological Society

Wilson Ornithological Society

Association of Field Ornithologists

United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Award: 5147