Tuamotu Sandpiper "Titi" Chevalier des Tuamotu
Biology and Conservation Biology
The Tuamotu Sandpiper ("Titi", Chevalier des Tuamotu, Prosobonia cancellata ) is the sole surviving species of 6 related Calidrid sandpipers which evolved as resident species on South Pacific islands. Due primarily to the introduction of mammalian nest predators – rats and cats – the once widespread “Titi”, as it is called locally, is now restricted to 4-6 atolls in French Polynesia, with a total population of approximately 1000 birds.
All other sandpipers are highly migratory. This year-round resident of South Pacific atolls has a suite of adaptations, including short bills and legs, rounded wings, nectar feeding, and extensive use of trees, making the Tuamotu Sandpiper a most unusual shorebird species.
Marie-Hélene Burle, Ph.D student, is conducting the first intensive field study of this species on the tiny motu (island) of Tiromi, and other small islands, which are part of the uninhabited atoll of Tahanea, in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. Marie completed two 4-5 month field seasons in 2008-9 and 2010, and and is in the field from May-October 2012. The research includes description of the species' social system and breeding biology, identifying nest predators, studies of the unusual nectivorous feeding adaptations, demography, and population genetics. To aid the species' conservation, we facilitated rodent removal from a small islet, lead by Island Conservation staff, and We will prepare a translocation plan aimed at establishing new populations on suitable rat-free atolls or islands. Marie's research is supervised by David Lank.
Our research is being pursued in cooperation with the Society of Polynesian Ornithologists- MANU, the French Direction de l'Environnement (DIREN), Island Conservation, the US FIsh and Wildlife Service, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the government of Anaa, and the landowners of Tiromi.