Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Jodice, Patrick G. R.

Committee Member

Sanders, Felicia

Committee Member

Gerard, Patrick

Abstract

Little is known about the reproductive ecology of Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia). I conducted a study of nest site selection and nest success at a critical breeding area in South Carolina, USA. Data from other coastal nesting birds in the region suggest that a suite of environmental factors including flooding and predation may limit nest success in this region. To assess nest success rates of Wilson's Plovers in an area with limited human disturbance I monitored 72 nests during 2012 and 2013 on South Island and Sand Island located in Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Heritage Preserve. I measured environmental variables at the micro and macro-habitat scale to assess nest site selection and to determine the effect of habitat characteristics on daily survival rate (DSR) of nests. DSR ranged from 0.969 - 0.988 among both sites and years while the probability of nest survival ranged from 0.405 - 0.764. Daily survival rates were positively related to the density of items (e.g. shells, wood) within 1 m of the nest and negatively related to maximum tide height during the observation interval on South Island. The distance between the nest site and the nearest dune also was related to DSR of nests on South Island but the effect varied between years. Daily survival was higher in 2013 than 2012 on South Island. Survival was not significantly related to any habitat or environmental variables on Sand Island. Flooding, predation, abandonment, wind-blown sand, and a nesting sea turtle were the known causes of nest failure. More research is needed to determine the nest success rates across the region and to determine chick habitat requirements and survival rates.

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