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Wiens, T.P. 1986. Nest-site tenacity and mate retention in the piping plover (Charadrius melodus). M.S. Thesis, University of Minnesota. 34 pp.


Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) were studied for 3 breeding seasons in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, to determine: (a) the distribution, philopatry, and breeding success of the local population, and (b) the effect of previous breeding success on nest-site tenacity and mate retention. It was hypothesized that successful breeders would be more likely to return to the same nest-sites and to retain the same mates than individuals that failed to produce offspring the previous year.

The population consisted of approximately 47 adults which nested at 4 breeding localities within the study area. A mean of 1.4 juveniles/breeding pair survived to fledging each year. Both adult and natal philopatry were relatively strong. Sixty-eight percent of adult birds and 21% of second-year birds returned to the study area in consecutive years. Nest-site tenacity was also well developed. The median distance between successive nests for breeding birds was 41 m. No significant relationship was found between previous breeding success and nest-site tenacity. Scarcity of suitable nesting sites in the Lake of the Woods area may explain why individuals returned to the same sites despite experiencing breeding failure the previous year.

Of all pairs for which both members returned to the study area the subsequent season, 45% reunited, indicating moderate mate retention. No significant relationship was found between previous breeding success and mate retention. Competition for mates or the advantage of reuniting with a familiar and experienced mate may outweigh any advantage gained by separating after breeding failure.

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