In 1993, a mark-recapture effort was initiated to band annually all Great Lakes Piping Plover nesting adults and offspring. With voluntary reporting by observers, >430 sightings of 154 individually-marked Great Lakes banded birds were documented on the wintering grounds during 19952005. This paper reports non-breeding distribution and site-fidelity and identifies Critical Habitat units used by this population during the winter. Information obtained through banded bird sightings indicates that the winter range of Great Lakes Piping Plovers extends from North Carolina to Texas, and the Bahamas, with the majority (75%) of reported individuals wintering in Georgia and Florida. About 95% of sightings were near or within federally-designated winter Critical Habitat for Piping Plovers. Within season (52%) and between-year (62%) site fidelity was documented for resightings within 3.5 km of initial sighting. Although breeding pairs do not winter in close association, there is some evidence to suggest that offspring winter closer to the male rather than the female parent (P-value = 0.03), and adult males and females appear to exhibit latitudinal segregation (P-value < 0.001). Females reach the winter grounds before males, arriving in July and staying through April (???9 months) or 75% of the annual cycle. The study is the first to identify winter distribution for the Great Lakes Piping Plover population. The significant proportion of the annual cycle spent on the wintering grounds emphasizes the importance of habitat protection during the non-breeding season for this federally-listed population.
Additional publication details
Distribution of non-breeding great lakes piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) along Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines: Ten years of band sightings