Demographics and movements of least terns and piping plovers in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska

Open-File Report 2016-1061
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Central Platte River Valley provides breeding habitat for a variety of migratory birds, including federally endangered interior least terns (Sternula antillarum; least tern) and threatened piping plovers (Charadrius melodus). Since 2009, researchers have collected demographic data on both species that span their lifecycle (that is, from egg laying through survival of adults). Demographic data were used to estimate vital rates (for example, nest survival, chick survival, and so on) for both species and assess how these vital rates were related to type and age of nesting habitat. Nest survival of both species was unrelated to the age of the site a nest was initiated on. Piping plover chick survival to fledging age was not related to the age of the site it was hatched at, however, the probability of a least tern chick surviving to fledging was higher at older sites. In general there were fewer piping plover nests than least tern nests found at sites created through either the physical construction of a new site or new vegetation management regimes, during 2009–14.

Mean daily least tern nest survival was 0.9742 (95-percent confidence interval [CI]: 0.9692–0.9783) and cumulative nest survival was 0.59 (95-percent CI: 0.53–0.65). Mean daily least tern chick survival was 0.9602 (95-percent CI: 0.9515–0.9673) and cumulative survival to fledging was 0.54 (95-percent CI = 0.48–0.61). Annual apparent survival rates were estimated at 0.42 (95-percent CI = 0.22–0.64) for adult least terns nesting in the Central Platte River Valley and an apparent survival rate of 0.14 (95-pecent CI = 0.04–0.41) for juvenile least terns. The number of least tern nests present at sites created during 2009–14 was associated with the age of the site; more least tern nests were associated with older sites. During 2009–14, there were four (less than 1 percent of all chicks marked) least tern chicks hatched from the Central Platte River Valley that were subsequently captured on nests as adults. Two of these least terns returned to nest at the same site they had hatched from. Ten instances were documented in which an adult least tern could either switch to nest at a new location or remain at the previous location with the onset of a new year. In five (50 percent) of these instances, least terns returned to nest on the site where they had nested in a previous year.

For piping plovers, mean daily apparent nest survival was 0.9880 (95-pecent CI: 0.9836–0.9912) and cumulative nest survival was 0.66 (95-pecent CI: 0.57–0.74). Mean daily piping plover chick survival was 0.9621 (95-pecent CI: 0.9514–0.9706) and cumulative survival to fledging was 0.46 (95-pecent CI = 0.37– 0.56). The annual apparent survival estimate for adult piping plovers nesting in the Central Platte River Valley was 0.76 (95-pecent CI = 0.65–0.85) and was 0.20 (95-pecent CI = 0.14–0.29) for juvenile piping plovers. The number of piping plover nests present at sites created through either the physical construction of a new site or new vegetation management regimes was also associated with site age, with more piping plover nests associated with older sites; however, in general there were fewer piping plover nests found at created sites than least tern nests. Only first-year adult piping plovers were observed on sites in the first year of availability, whereas older sites had a higher proportion of after-first-year adult piping plovers than first-year adult piping plovers. Twelve piping plover chicks (approximately 3 percent of all chicks marked) hatched from the Central Platte River Valley and were subsequently documented on nests as adults. All piping plovers returned to nest on different sites from the one on which they hatched. A total of 45 instances were documented in which an adult plover could either switch to nest at a new location or remain at the previous location with the onset of a new year. In 39 instances (87 percent), the adult nested on the same site as its prior documented nesting attempt and in 6 of these instances the adult switched to a new nesting location between years. There were 13 of 75 uniquely identifiable piping plovers observed to renest (that is, initiate more than one nest in a season) during 2009–14; no renests were observed among uniquely identifiable least terns. In all but one case, piping plover renests were found at the same site as the first nest initiated that season. For birds that renested, the mean initiation date of the first nest was May 6 and the mean initiation date of the second nest was June 8. On average, renests were initiated 7.5 days plus or minus 7.3 (SD [standard deviation]) following the date the initial nesting attempt was ‘fated’ (considered either failed or hatched).

Suggested Citation

Roche, E.A., Sherfy, M.H., Ring, M.M., Shaffer, T.L., Anteau, M.J., and Stucker, J.H., 2016, Demographics and movements of least terns and piping plovers in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1061, 27 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161061.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Study Area
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Information Needs
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Demographics and movements of least terns and piping plovers in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1061
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161061
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description vi, 27 p.
First page 1
Last page 27
Country United States
State Nebraska
Other Geospatial Central Platte River Valley
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N