Miller, Edward H. 1985. Parental behavior in the Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla). Can. J. Zool. 63: 1593-1601.

Summary (AGH): Shorebirds (sandpipers, plovers, and related birds) vary tremendously in their social behaviour, and so have been important for our understanding of how different social behaviours have evolved to fit different environments and lifestyles. Least Sandpipers on Sable Island offer an unusual opportunity to understand this variation, because most shorebirds, including other Least Sandpipers, breed in much more arctic conditions. Yet this study shows that their parental behaviour is quite similar to that of other sandpipers: males incubate by day, females by night; males take more of the share of incubation as time passes, and stay with the brood (in undefended areas where they remain) for three weeks compared to female’s one week. During that time, they defend the young against predators with behaviours, including distraction (“broken wing”) displays, that are very similar to those of other shorebirds. These similarities in lifestyle across such a wide range of environments suggest that the usual explanations for the solicitude of sandpipers, especially males, to their offspring — that cooler environments require more incubation, or that habitats with more predators require more care, for example — are wrong or incomplete.