Effective management of piping plover (Charadrius melodus) populations requires knowledge of the habitats that foster successful reproduction. We studied piping plover chick foraging ecology and survival on the central barrier islands of Long Island, New York, 1992 and 1993. Within the 90-km study area, all 1-km beach segments with ephemeral pools or bay tidal flats were used for nesting and brood rearing, whereas <50% of beach segments without these habitats were used. On beach segments with ephemeral pools, broods preferred ephemeral pools to ocean intertidal zone, wrack, backshore, open vegetation, and interdune habitat. Indices of terrestrial arthropod abundance and foraging rates were greater in ephemeral pools than in other habitats. In 1992, chick survival was higher on beach segments with ephemeral pools than on segments without ephemeral pools. On beach segments with bay tidal flats, broods preferred bay tidal flats and wrack to ocean intertidal zone, backshore, and open vegetation habitats. Foraging rates in bay tidal flats were similar to those in ephemeral pools and greater than in open vegetation, wrack, and backshore habitats. On beach segments without ephemeral pools and bay tidal flats, broods preferred wrack to all other habitats, and open vegetation was second most preferred. To assist in the recovery of the piping plover, land-use planners should avoid beach management practices (e.g., beach filling, dune building, renourishment) that typically inhibit natural renewal of ephemeral pools, bay tidal flats, and open vegetation habitats.
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Piping Plover brood foraging ecology on New York barrier islands