Date of this Version
Avian Conservation and Ecology 11(1):5.
Birds frequently interact with people when they occur in coupled human-ecological or anthropogenic environments, which makes the protection of legally protected species a challenge. Flight initiation distances (FIDs) are often used to inform development of appropriate buffer distances required for human exclusion zones used to protect birds nesting in anthropogenic landscapes. Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) are protected by the Endangered Species Act in the United States and often nest in areas used by humans. Studies evaluating Piping Plover FIDs are limited and implementation of exclusion zones has been inconsistent across the species’ range. We measured Piping Plover response and FIDs to naturally occurring stimuli on public beaches at Lake McConaughy, Nebraska, USA. Piping Plover FIDs differed most by stimulus class (vehicle, human, dog, human with dog), Julian day, and hour of day. Piping Plover FIDs were greatest for dog and human with dog compared to humans and vehicles. For all types of stimuli, Piping Plover FIDs decreased over time during the nesting season and increased slightly during each day. In the majority of instances in which Piping Plovers left their nests, return times to the nest were relatively short (less than three minutes). These results suggest Piping Plovers become habituated to the presence of human-related stimuli over the course of a nesting season, but other explanations such as parental investment and risk allocation cannot be excluded. Additional research and improved guidance regarding the implementation of exclusion zones is needed so managers can implement effective protection programs in anthropogenic landscapes.