Shore Bird Connection
Horseshoe crabs play an important ecological role in the food web for migrating shorebirds. The Delaware Bay is the second largest staging area for shorebirds in North America.
Along the Atlantic Flyway, an estimated 1 million migratory shorebirds converge in the Delaware-Chesapeake region at the peak of horseshoe crab mating in mid-May and June.
These migratory birds rely on horseshoe crab eggs to replenish their fat supply during their long journey to Canadian breeding grounds. Because these areas are regularly used by large numbers of shorebirds at specific times of the year, they are particularly vulnerable to disruption. The collection of horseshoe crabs by hand from spawning beaches disturbs the feeding of shorebirds. A decrease in the number of horseshoe crabs may leave a large portion of migrating shorebirds without the necessary food resources to complete their trip to arctic breeding grounds.
Shorebirds that depend on horseshoe crab eggs for food during migration are listed below. Click on each link to see an image of the bird.
For more information about these birds check out the websites below:
Seagull photo by Al Ivany, NJ Fish Game and Wildlife
Raising Horseshoe Crabs in the Classroom
- Stacy Epperson
Aquatic Resource Education Dept
Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401