The impact of habitat loss on shorebirds may be exacerbated by disturbance from human recreational use, which further reduces the amount of coastal habitat that is functionally available. This can have consequences for the condition of individual birds or for population processes, both of which should be considered in strategies to reduce conflict between shorebirds and recreational users of coastal habitat. Our objectives were to determine the associations between human recreational use, coastal habitat modifications, and Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) body condition and demography. We monitored banded Piping Plovers throughout their annual cycle to assess variation in body condition, true survival, and site fidelity related to disturbance regimes in 8 geographically proximate, nonbreeding areas along the southeastern Atlantic Coast of North America from 2012 to 2016. Piping Plovers in disturbed sites were 7% lighter than those in less disturbed sites. Additionally, true annual survival was lower in more disturbed areas. However, site fidelity was less influenced by disturbance than were body mass and survival. Movements away from specific nonbreeding areas were uncommon, regardless of disturbance regime, but individuals that moved to new wintering locations had high probabilities of annual survival (S̄ = 0.80) relative to their site-faithful counterparts (S̄ = 0.67). Associations among nonbreeding conditions, body condition, and demography highlight the importance of nonbreeding habitats to annual population dynamics of migratory species. Conservation strategies for Piping Plovers that focus solely on breeding season dynamics may not account for some of the mechanisms that influence demographic rates and population trajectories.
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Vol. 120 • No. 3