Parental brood attendance patterns vary greatly among shorebird species. For monogamous calidridine species, biparental care with female-first brood departure is most common. It is believed that adult sandpipers balance potential individual survival costs associated with extended parental care against the benefit gained by their brood of prolonged parental care. These costs and benefits are difficult to quantify and factors affecting the termination of parental brood attendance are unclear. We compared clutch size, nesting phenology, and parental attendance patterns of Western Sandpipers Calidris mauri at Nome and Kanaryarmiut, Alaska, sites separated by three degrees of latitude. The sites differed in breeding density and duration of breeding season, but the distribution of clutch sizes did not differ between sites or between nesting attempts. Parental attendance patterns were similar between sites, suggesting that parental attendance is a highly conserved life-history trait in Western Sandpipers. Male Western Sandpipers attended broods longer than females, and the duration of parental attendance decreased at a similar rate for both sexes as the season progressed. Male and female Western Sandpipers undertake differential migrations to their non-breeding grounds, with males typically settling at more northerly locations and females at more southerly sites, a migration pattern shared by certain other monogamous calidridine species. These same species exhibit similar parental brood attendance patterns, suggesting the strong role of overall migration distance in shaping the expression of parental attendance behaviours. A contrast of more geographically disjunct sites coupled with a better understanding of the migratory connectivity between Western Sandpiper breeding and non-breeding populations would elucidate the role of cross-seasonal effects on parental brood attendance decisions.
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