2016 ‘An Excellent Breeding Year’ for Beach-Nesting Birds, Says Conserve Wildlife Foundation
From piping plovers to least terns to black skimmers to American oystercatchers, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey reports that it has been “an excellent breeding year” for beach-nesting birds, as CWF Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover wrote in a blog post earlier this month.
“There are many ways to gauge success for our beach-nesting bird project,” Pover explained. “We look at how well our management tools work, the effectiveness of our partnerships, and how well our educational efforts work, to name a few qualitative measures we use. At some point, however, it comes down to cold hard numbers: how well did the birds do in a particular season and over the long-term.” Although the figures are still preliminary, the trends are clear.
Piping plovers, Pover reports, come in at approximately 115 pairs statewide, up from 108 pairs in 2015. In 2014, the number was just 92, a historic low.
“So, we have climbed back closer to our long-term average, but there is still room to improve,” he noted. “The really good news is our productivity this year – close to a statewide record at 1.37 chicks fledged per pairs – puts us in the position to continue our population increase. If trends hold, because piping plovers demonstrate high site (or region) fidelity, when we produce a lot of fledglings, our breeding population rises in the next year or two. With three straight years of well above average fledgling rates for New Jersey now in the books, our prospects look good in the short term for our breeding population levels.”
Least terns and black skimmers, which nest in large colonies, are more challenging to count and assess, but both saw at least modest success this year.
The least tern colonies were variable, as is typical for the species. However, the two largest colonies in the state, in the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Holgate and at Seaview Harbor, “were very successful and helped make up for losses and failures at other colonies,” Pover remarked.
Most of the state’s black skimmers, meanwhile, are concentrated in a large colony at Seaview Harbor. Although skimmers are the latest nesters – so the season isn’t yet over for them – they seem to have been successful there, which translates to a good season overall for the state.
The nonprofit CWF also tracks American oystercatchers, but only those that nest on barrier beaches and spits. “Because the biggest percentage of oystercatchers in the state nest on back bay and marsh islands, we cannot determine true statewide population or productivity levels, but the population on the beach habitat appears to be rising in recent years,” Pover stated. “Typically breeding success is lower for oystercatchers on the beach habitat due to high levels of human disturbance and predators, but productivity has been relatively high the past two years.”
For more information on CWF’s beach-nesting bird project, visit conservewildlifenj.org. —J.K.-H.