Date of Award

8-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Jodice, Patrick

Committee Member

Sanders , Felicia

Committee Member

Gerard , Patrick

Abstract

The Cape Romain Region (CRR) is located along the coast of South Carolina and supports over half of the breeding pairs (approximately 200 pairs) of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) in the state. Research has shown that oystercatcher productivity in this area is low due to predation and over-wash from high tides and boat wakes. I assessed the feasibility of using headstarting as a means of reducing nest loss in an attempt to enhance reproductive success during the 2010 and 2011 breeding seasons. Apparent nest success of headstarted nests (52%) was higher than control nests (11%) along two study areas within the CRR. However, apparent brood success was higher for control nests (90%) compared to headstarted nests (27%). Although headstarting did improve nest success during incubation, it did not appear to ultimately enhance productivity within this region because of high rates of chick loss.
In addition to assessing the feasibility of headstarting, I also examined attributes of behavior and attendance rates of oystercatcher breeding pairs on nesting territories in two study areas of the Cape Romain Region. I recorded the percentage of time breeding pairs were present on nesting territories and the behaviors exhibited while present during low-tide foraging periods during incubation and chick rearing. I found no significant differences in the rate of attendance or each behavior between breeding pairs with assigned headstart or control nests for incubation and chick rearing. Attendance of breeding pairs was found to be significantly related to the nest success of control nests but was not found to be related to the brood success of chicks. Behavior of breeding pairs was often found to be significantly related to site during incubation and chick age during chick rearing.

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