Flooding can cause widespread nest failure and chick mortality in sandbar-and beach-nesting waterbirds, particularly when human activity has either altered natural hydrology or limited available nesting habitat. Such widespread reproductive failure could increase breeding-season dispersal, leading to the abandonment of established nesting sites. We examined how annual movement ψ; varied by sex, reproductive success, and flooding in three Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) breeding areas in Saskatchewan during 2002–2009, using a multistate capture-mark-recapture model in Program MARK (n = 782). On average, female Piping Plovers were twice as likely as males to disperse and both sexes were more likely to disperse following years of poor versus moderate reproductive success (minimum to maximum values: ψ;no-fledglings, 0.0054–0.0998 vs. ψ;two-fledglings, 0.0017–0.0607). In addition, breeding Piping Plovers exhibited higher dispersal following flood years, even in years of moderate reproductive success (minimum to maximum values: ψ;males-flood, 0.0025–0.0653 vs. ψ;males-noflood, 0.0019–0.0399; and ψ;females-flood, 0.0092–0.1089 vs. ψ;females-no flood, 0.0070–0.0666). Consecutive floods could force Piping Plovers to nest at artificially high densities in new habitats that may be ill-suited to reproductive success. Given the benefits of site familiarity to reproductive success and survival, we recommend that conservation planning consider dispersal of breeding adults, in addition to nests and chicks, when water levels are managed at nesting locations used by Piping Plovers.
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