Space use by Great Lakes Piping Plovers during the breeding season

TitleSpace use by Great Lakes Piping Plovers during the breeding season
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHaffner CDiane, Cuthbert FJean, Arnold TW
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Pagination270 - 279
Date Published09/2009

Identifying and protecting breeding habitat for imperiled species requires an understanding of the spatial and temporal movements of breeding individuals. During the 2003 and 2004 breeding seasons, we examined space use by Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) in the federally endangered Great Lakes population. We used coordinate geometry to estimate home range sizes of individual birds and examined relationships between home range size and breeding stage (incubation versus chick rearing), year, sex, number of locations, minimum plover age, distance to the nearest nest, and human beach use (high, medium, or low). The mean size of home ranges of Piping Plovers that fledged at least one chick was 2.9 ± 0.5 (SE) ha (range = 0.4-11.2 ha), and the mean linear beach distance traversed was 475 ± 53 m (range = 130-1435 m). Individuals used 3 times more beach area and 1.5 times more shoreline distance in 2003 than in 2004. Females used smaller areas than males overall and during chick rearing. Home ranges were smallest on beaches with low public use, suggesting that human disturbance may cause greater movement by individual plovers and that larger protected areas may be warranted on beaches frequented by the public to minimize disturbance to breeding birds. Our results demonstrate that nesting Great Lakes Piping Plovers occupy relatively small ranges and, therefore, that even relatively small areas of suitable habitat can have a high conservation value for this endangered population. However, the total area of habitat used varied substantially among individuals, and this should be considered when protecting habitat for the species.