Executive Summary 1. The breeding population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a federally-threatened shorebird, at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CAHA) declined from 15 pairs/yr to 3 pairs/yr from 1989-2004. A population of this size may face immediate risk of extirpation from several sources. At several former breeding sites at CAHA, there have been no nesting pairs in recent years. 2. Only one plover chick has survived to fledging at CAHA, 2001-2004. While survival of eggs has often been moderate to high since 1989, survival of chicks has generally been low. Reproductive rate improved in 2005, with 6 chicks fledging from 2 pairs in conjunction with more actively managed closures in brood-rearing areas. 3. Inclement weather, predation, and recreational disturbance may negatively impact reproductive success of piping plovers at CAHA. Recreational disturbance and habitat loss caused by ORVs may discourage pairs from attempting to nest. 4. To recover the breeding plover population at CAHA, it will be necessary to create disturbance-free areas containing high-quality nesting and foraging habitat from the territory-establishment phase to the brood-rearing phase of the breeding cycle. We provide three management options to reduce risk of disturbance and mortality. They entail full closure of the seashore to recreation, closure of historical breeding sites to ORVs, or restriction of recreation to an oceanside corridor. 5. To reduce the risk of egg and chick mortality, we recommend continued efforts to trap and remove mammalian predators from all aforementioned sites and the continued use of predator exclosures around nests. We further recommend intensive monitoring and surveillance of protected areas to determine the extent and timing of threats to nests and broods, including nest overwash, predation, and disturbance or vandalism by humans. 6. Even if reproductive success improves under our recommendations, however, a population of this size will take several years to recover in the absence of immigrants from other sites, and there may not be a noticeable increase in population size in the short term. We recommend using an Adaptive Management approach, combining research, monitoring and management to assess the effectiveness of management actions in achieving our goals to recovery this threatened species at Cape Hatteras. 7. The size of nonbreeding flocks, their habitat use, their site tenacity, and sources of disturbance and mortality are not known with high precision. We recommend monitoring standards and research to address this problem, while at the same time restricting recreation adjacent to important migration and wintering sites to afford nonbreeding birds increased protection.
Additional publication details
Management and protection protocols for the threatened Piping Plover (Charadrius Melodus) on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina