Habitaat and reproductive success of piping plover nesting on Great Lakes islands

TitleHabitaat and reproductive success of piping plover nesting on Great Lakes islands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsCuthbert FJean, Powell ANeva
JournalThe Wilson Bulletin

Piping Plovers historically nested along the Great Lakes. Russell (1983) estimated there may have been up to 802 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes region. In the 1940s and 1950s the Great Lakes Piping Plover population declined dramatically following shoreline development and subsequent loss of nesting habitat (Russell 1983). Islands have historically been an important component of breeding habitat for the Great Lakes Piping Plover population. In Michigan, Piping Plovers once nested on North and South Manitou islands, North and South Fox islands, and Beaver Island (Hatt et al. 1948, Cotrille 1957). In the past decade, Piping Plovers have nested only on Beaver and High islands (Lambert and Ratcliff 1981). Because of their relative isolation, these islands appear to constitute an important remnant of Piping Plover nesting habitat. The purpose of this study was to estimate the proportion of the Great Lakes Piping Plover population that uses these islands, describe nesting habitat, and estimate reproductive success. Islands are important breeding sites for Piping Plovers. Quality breeding habitat for Piping Plovers is still available on the Great Lakes Islands. These areas support fewer predator species than mainland sites and have low levels of human disturbance. This is important because disturbance due to human activity has been shown to decrease reproductive success of Piping Plovers nesting along the Atlantic coast (Cairns and McLaren 1980, Flemming et al. 1988). Beach areas on the Manitou islands, Beaver Island, and High Island has been closed to human use during the Piping Plover breeding season for the past several years. Despite these factors and high hatching success of island plovers, recruitment into the Great Lakes Piping Plover population continues to decline. Piping Plover management in the Great Lakes must include alternate techniques in addition to habitat and nest protection if this population is to survive.