Humans may modify winter habitat of the imperiled Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), yet published accounts of the species’ winter ecology are rare. We studied Piping Plovers at Oregon Inlet, North Carolina from December 2005 to March 2006. Plovers used a 20.1 km2 area (100% minimum convex polygon home range) containing narrow barrier islands with ocean and sound-side beaches, and small shoals, dredged-material islands, and marsh islands in shallow-water sounds. Plover activity was concentrated in twelve areas totaling 2.2 km2 (95% fixed kernel home range). When plovers were on ocean beaches, they spent less time foraging (18%) than when on Sound Island beaches (88%) and islands (83%, P = 0.003). Sound island use increased and beach use decreased as the tide dropped (Logistic regression, P < 0.001). Plover use of dredged-material islands implied that habitat managers can create or restore attractive foraging sites where habitat may be declining or limiting. Wintering habitat management should aim to provide foraging opportunities during most of the day and across a range of tide conditions and ensure that foraging habitat is close to roost sites.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3