Title page for ETD etd-09252012-105229

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author DeRose-Wilson, Audrey Laura
Author's Email Address aderose@vt.edu
URN etd-09252012-105229
Title Demography, Nest Site Selection, and Physiological and Behavioral Responses to Overflights and other Human Activities, of Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
Degree Master of Science
Department Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Fraser, James D. Committee Chair
Karpanty, Sarah M. Committee Member
Walters, Jeffrey R. Committee Member
  • Wilson’s Plover
  • reproduction
  • overflights
  • heart rate
  • habitat selection
  • disturbance
  • Charadrius wilsonia
  • behavior
Date of Defense 2012-09-12
Availability restricted
There is little information on demographic trends of, or threats to the Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), despite concerns that habitat degradation may be causing the species to decline. I studied Wilson’s Plover demography, nest site selection, and physiological and behavioral responses to overflights at Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina, where the National Park Service and U.S. Marine Corps recently lowered the altitude for overflights at tactical speeds. I monitored the responses of incubating Wilson’s Plovers to overflights and other human activities and compared heart rate, incubation rate, and vigilance behaviors during time periods with and without these stimuli. I compared habitat use vs. availability at the island-scale, and nest placement relative to geomorphic features and vegetative cover, both on a local and island-wide scale. Wilson’s Plovers increased vigilance during military rotary-wing and civilian fixed-wing overflights, but not during military fixed-wing overflights. Plovers were vigilant more and incubated less when researchers were present. Wilson’s Plovers selected for interdune areas, flats and isolated dunelets on flats, and against beach and dunes. At the local scale, nests were more likely to be near dense vegetation than random points. Mayfield nest survival was 25%, and predation caused most of the nest failure. Daily nest survival was negatively correlated with nest age and initiation date. Nests with cameras and heart rate monitors had lower survival, and nests with predator exclosures had higher survival. The mean number of chicks fledged per pair was 0.78.
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