Modeling foraging behavior of piping plovers to evaluate habitat restoration success

Authors

  • Brooke Maslo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1582, USA
    • Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1582, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Joanna Burger,

    1. Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 604 Allison Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Steven N. Handel

    1. Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1582, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Associate Editor: Michael Chamberlain.

Abstract

Habitat restoration projects are often deemed successful based on the presence of the target species within the habitat; however, in some cases the restored habitat acts as an ecological trap and does not help to improve the reproductive success of the target species. Understanding wildlife–habitat relationships through precise measurements of animal behavior can identify critical resources that contribute to high quality habitat and improve habitat restoration practice. We evaluated the success of a restored piping plover (Charadrius melodus) breeding habitat in New Jersey, USA. We identified the major factors influencing foraging rates, compared foraging activity budgets over 3 yr at restored and natural habitats, and explored the potential of artificial tidal ponds as a viable restoration alternative. Adult foraging rates were higher in artificial pond and ephemeral pool habitats, during low tide, and after breeding activity ended. Adult foraging rates were impeded by the presence of people and vehicles within 50 m. Chick foraging rates were highest at artificial ponds and bay shores and lowest in dunes and on sand flats. Chick foraging rates were strongly hindered by the presence of corvids and the number of people within 50 m. In addition, at artificial tidal ponds, piping plovers spent more time foraging and less time engaged in defensive behaviors (vigilance, crouching, and fleeing) compared to other potential habitats. Our findings support the hypothesis that artificial tidal ponds are a valuable, perhaps superior, foraging habitat. Future beach restoration projects should include this feature to maximize habitat quality and restoration success. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

Ancillary