, Volume 170, Issue 4, pp 1167–1179 | Cite as

Nest survival of piping plovers at a dynamic reservoir indicates an ecological trap for a threatened population

  • Michael J. Anteau
  • Terry L. Shaffer
  • Mark H. Sherfy
  • Marsha A. Sovada
  • Jennifer H. Stucker
  • Mark T. Wiltermuth
Conservation Ecology - Original Research


In the past 60 years, reservoirs have reshaped riverine ecosystems and transformed breeding habitats used by the threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus; hereafter plover). Currently, 29 % of the Northern Great Plains plover population nests at reservoirs that might function as ecological traps because reservoirs have more diverse habitat features and greater dynamics in water levels than habitats historically used by breeding plovers. We examined factors influencing daily survival rates (DSR) of 346 plover nests at Lake Sakakawea (SAK; reservoir) during 2006–2009 by evaluating multiple a priori models, and we used our best model to hindcast nest success of plovers during 1985–2009. Our observed and hindcast estimates of nest success were low compared to published estimates. Previous findings indicate that plovers prefer nest sites that are low relative to water level. We found that elevation of nests above the water level had a strong positive correlation with DSR because water levels of SAK typically increased throughout the nesting period. Habitat characteristics on the reservoir differ from those that shaped nest-site selection for plovers. Accordingly, extraordinary nest loss occurs there in many years, largely due to inundation of nests, and based on low fledging rates those losses were not compensated by potential changes in chick survival. Therefore, our example supports the concept of ecological traps in birds because it addresses quantitative assessments of habitat preference and productivity over 25 years (since species listing) and affects a large portion of the population.


Flooding Productivity Recruitment Shorebird Waterbird 



This study was funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Missouri River Recovery Program through financial and logistical support from the Corps’ Omaha District Threatened and Endangered Species Section and Garrison Project Office. We are grateful for technical support by the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Missouri River Least Tern and Piping Plover Research Team. We thank Melisa Bernard, Phil Brown, Deb Buhl, Tom Buhl, Colin Dovichin, Anthony Hipp, Coral Huber, Casey Kruse, Michael Morris, Brandi Skone, Nickolas Smith, and Ryan Williamson for help with project planning and logistics, and the many field technicians for their assistance with data collection. Lastly, we are indebted to Max Post van der Burg, Erin Roche, and anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript. Our field protocols were approved by the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Animal Care and Use Committee. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Anteau
    • 1
  • Terry L. Shaffer
    • 1
  • Mark H. Sherfy
    • 1
  • Marsha A. Sovada
    • 1
  • Jennifer H. Stucker
    • 1
  • Mark T. Wiltermuth
    • 1
  1. 1.US Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research CenterJamestownUSA

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