Snowy Plovers select wide beaches for nesting


81 – 84

26 October 14

Allison M. Patrick, Mark A. Colwell

Allie Patrick
Wildlife Department, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521, USA


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The Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus is listed as threatened along the Pacific coast of North America where it breeds amidst sparsely vegetated (i.e. ‘open’) habitats on ocean-fronting beaches, salt pans, and riverine gravel bars. Habitat management to increase the Snowy Plover population has emphasized restoring coastal dunes and beaches by removing invasive plants; few studies, however, have quantified second order habitat selection by Snowy Plovers (i.e. choice of a breeding site from amongst habitats within the species’ range). Consequently, we used three years of data on 109 nests to show that plovers nested on wider beaches compared with random locations; some nests, however, occurred on narrow beaches. Our findings may be useful in guiding restoration efforts aimed at improving the suitability of habitats for breeding Snowy Plovers. However, the weak explanatory power of beach width suggests that other unmeasured features of habitat or social factors may also influence how individuals select breeding sites.