Wintering and winter site-fidelity of Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus in SW Florida, USA


51 – 55

1 April 10

Theodore H. Below

Theodore H. Below
3697 North Road, Naples Florida, 34104-4034, USA.


Public Files

A 31-year census of waterbirds in the vicinity of Marco Island, SW Florida, shows that Piping Plovers started to winter in the area in 1977/78. Since then their numbers have increased, peaking during 1998/99 to 2004/05 when the average count was 35–52. After that numbers dropped to an average of 21 in 2007/08. Individually color-banded Piping Plovers showed high site-fidelity: nine of 11 returned to winter in the study area in subsequent years; seven were present during at least five winters and one occurred in 12 winters over a 14 year period.First sightings of the banded birds in autumn showed a bimodal pattern with some arriving in late July and August, and others in late September and October. This might arise because of different molting and migration strategies: some moving direct from the breeding grounds to Marco Island before beginning their large feather molt, others stopping over to molt elsewhere before moving to Marco Island later. Last sightings in spring were mostly in late March and April.The key area used  by Piping Plovers is a 285 ha sand bar called Sand Dollar Island where they are threatenedby ever-increasing human disturbance.