Accuracy of nest fate classification and predator identification from evidence at nests of least terns and piping plovers

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For federally listed species such as Least Tern Sternula antillarum and Piping Plover Charadrius melodus, correct determination of nest fates and causes of nest failure is crucial for understanding population dynamics and improving monitoring programmes. We used video cameras to evaluate nest fate misclassification rate and to identify factors that may cause researchers monitoring nests at different intervals to classify Least Tern and Piping Plover nest fates incorrectly. During the 2013–2015 breeding seasons, we installed miniature surveillance cameras at 65 of 294 Least Tern and 89 of 551 Piping Plover nests under observation on the Missouri River in North Dakota. Nest fates were assigned in the field from remains found at the nest‐site and then again by an independent researcher who reviewed camera footage. We used ordinal logistic regressions to examine whether monitoring interval, clutch age or temporal factors influenced a correct, partially misclassified (probable successful in the field vs. successful by camera) or misclassified nest fate classification. During a 7‐day monitoring interval between visits, 45% of nests were partially and 27.5% were fully misclassified. The percentage of partially (20%) and fully (8.0%) misclassified nests decreased with a more intensive (3‐day) monitoring schedule. Researchers were also less likely to correctly classify nest fates for Least Terns than for Piping Plovers, and as clutch age and monitoring interval increased for both species. Furthermore, causes of failure (e.g. predators, weather) as determined from field evidence vs. video disagreed for 53.5% of nests. The ability to identify accurately nest fate and cause of nest failure will facilitate a better understanding of factors that limit productivity and will lead to better informed management decisions for improving nest survival.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Accuracy of nest fate classification and predator identification from evidence at nests of least terns and piping plovers
Series title Ibis
DOI 10.1111/ibi.12629
Volume 161
Issue 2
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 15 p.
First page 286
Last page 300
Country United States
State North Dakota
Other Geospatial Missouri River
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