Contact: Liz Davis, 410-629-6087
An estimated 38 pairs of piping plovers, Charadrius melodus, nested along the Maryland portion of Assateague Island National Seashore during 2014 and fledged 59 chicks. The resulting productivity numbers, 1.6 chicks fledged per pair, are the highest since 2004. Several factors may be attributed to the success of this year’s number of fledged chicks, including mild summer weather and effective management.
Since monitoring began in 1986, the piping plover breeding population has fluctuated between 14 and 66 pairs, while productivity has fluctuated between 0.4 and 2.4 chicks fledged per breeding pair. In the last five years, the breeding population averaged around 42 pairs, with an average productivity of 1.1 chicks fledged per breeding pair.
There are two distinct breeding areas within the Maryland portion of Assateague Island. The northern six miles of the island supports 90% of the piping plover breeding population, while the twelve mile stretch of beach known as the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone supports 10%. This year, the four pairs in the OSV zone fledged twelve chicks, for a productivity of 3.0 chicks fledged per breeding pair. This year’s productivity within the OSV zone ties with that of 2011 and is the fourth year in a row that productivity has been at or above 2.0 chicks fledged per breeding pair in this area.
“While nature definitely plays a part in the survivorship of the plover chicks, we also believe that minimal disturbance is a factor in our productivity,” says Tami Pearl, lead Biological Science Technician with the Piping Plover Monitoring Program. “Our hope is that the birds arrive early, set up their nests, and have their chicks fledged before July 4th each year, before the more intense summer weather arrives,” she adds. To this end, the park delineates interior portions of Assateague Island closed to the public as soon as a pair is seen in courtship, which can happen as early as late March. Full beach closures are only implemented when it becomes absolutely necessary to protect the unfledged chicks as they forage along the ocean beach.
Assateague Island continues to be the sole breeding location in Maryland for the piping plover, a
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Last updated: February 26, 2015