Habitat quality can have a profound effect on the condition and fitness of individual birds and on population demography. We investigated the effects of habitat metrics (invertebrate abundance and habitat type) on the condition (egg mass, adult mass, pre-fledged chick growth rates) of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) nesting on Missouri River sandbars from 2005–2014. The amount of breeding habitat for Piping Plovers was variable throughout our study with more habitat available after flooding occurred in 2011. In addition, increased demographic rates (e.g., reproductive output, hatch year survival, and population growth) were observed in the post-flood period. We hypothesized that the condition of individuals would be related to habitat quality and that increased demographic rates observed on the Missouri River sandbars throughout the post-flood period would, at least in part, be related to increased condition. Egg mass, pre-fledged chick growth rates, and invertebrate prey abundance had similar trends, indicating that prey abundance was related to individual condition. This was especially true as the post-flood habitat aged. However, we found there was no difference in the condition of individuals on pre- and post-flood habitat types, suggesting that the condition of individuals did not appear to contribute directly to increased demographic rates during the post-flood period. Although the demographic effects of the flood-created habitat were positive for plovers, it is important to understand the effects of habitat on the condition of individuals, and the short- and long-term consequences of these effects that may ultimately contribute to demography.
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